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Hong Kong is moving towards sharing its digital ID system with China

A fresh blow for Hong Kong data sovereignty.

The Hong Kong government is exploring the use of its digital identification system in mainland China, according to the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO). The plan might affect the adoption of the digital identification system considering Beijing’s ever tightening grip on Hong Kong, decreasing its autonomous status.

Hong Kong’s secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit said that the OGCIO is exploring with relevant authorities in the Mainland and Macao the collaboration opportunities between their identity authentication system and iAM Smart.

iAM Smart, short for “Internet Access by Mobile in a Smart way, is Hong Kong’s digital identification system launched last December. It is supposed to provide a “single digital identity” and authentication tool Hong Kongers can use for government transactions, such as renewing licenses, booking vaccines, checking vaccine statuses, voting registration, and paying taxes. The system supports more than 110 government services.

According to Secretary Sit, the cross-border application of iAM Smart will include “mutual recognition of electronic signature certificates to promote cross-boundary e-commerce applications, facilitating Hong Kong citizens to use iAM Smart to log in different online services, conduct online transactions, and perform digital signing with legal backing.” He promised more details will be revealed later.

Sit noted that the current adoption rate of the system is 8.7%, which is way higher than compared to the six-month post-launch adoption of similar systems in other countries, like Singapore (4%), Belgium (2.6%), and Estonia (3.6%).

However, the new plan to share the system with the mainland might affect the adoption rate considering Beijing’s reputation for spying on civilians and its ever tightening grip on Hong Kong.

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