Credentials & Authentication

The credentials and authentication mechanisms adopted by the ID system dictate how the system will be used by people in their daily lives. As such, they are central to the experience that end-users and relying parties have when they interact with the system, the level of assurance it provides for transactions, and much of its functionality and usage. In addition, the types of credentials and authentication mechanisms adopted play a large part in determining the overall cost of the system. Countries should therefore strive to provide credentials and authentication mechanisms that can provide a high enough level of assurance while being context appropriate.

This section focuses on different technical options related to:

  • Common types of physical and digital credentials issued, including ID numbers, cards and mobile ID

  • The process for issuing and collecting cards (or other physical credentials)

  • Authentication mechanisms for offline/local and online/remote authentication, as well as federation arrangements that allow an entity to accept credentials issued by third-party identity providers for authentication and authorization

  • Levels of assurance for authentication based on identity proofing, credentials, and authentication mechanisms

For more details on emerging technology for credentials and authentication, see the ID4D Technology Landscape report.

Figure 26. Key considerations for credentials and authentication

Inclusion Reliability Data Protection Sustainability
Certain credentials and authentication mechanisms may post accessibility challenges for particular groups, including illiterate people and those with limited internet or mobile phone access The form and format of credentials—including security features—and authentication mechanisms used contribute to the level of assurance the ID system provides for transactions Credential formats—e.g., number structures and information printed on a card—and authentication protocols should be privacy enhancing (e.g., using yes/no responses whenever possible to protect personal data) Credentials are a significant contributor to the cost of an ID system, ranging from an estimated 10-40% of total costs depending on the form factor