No solution for Mobile-ID continuation

Mobile-ID is used in Estonia both to access various services as well as digitally sign documents.
Mobile-ID is used in Estonia both to access various services as well as digitally sign documents. Source: Mihkel Maripuu/Eesti Meedia/Scanpix

The state's contract with the Mobile-ID service provider SK ID Solutions ends on June 30, but the procurement for finding a new provider has failed. The State Information System Board (RIA), responsible for finding a solution, admits that it has so far drawn a blank.

The state wanted to find a service provider which would create a new state Mobile-ID solution, which could be used in the e-services of both the state and private sector. The only offer was made by the Belgian Mobile ID, but their offer ignored the state's wishes in several aspects. The current provider participated in the procurement consultations but didn't make an offer.

The contract with SK ID Solutions is valid until June 30, 2022. Consumers' Mobile-ID certificates will be valid for the initial five years, they won't be stopping automatically on July 1, however, certificates that aren't valid anymore, which haven't been updated can't be renewed.

251, 668 Mobile-IDs have been issued in Estonia (there are already 610,034 Smart-ID contracts. From December 22 until July 1, 23,981 Mobile-ID contracts are expiring. When the owners don't update them, they will all expire.

"As of today, the situation will change from July 1 who don't have a valid Mobile-ID contract at the time because they are not able to apply for a new one. Who has Mobile-ID or is able to renew it before July 1, the contract will be valid for five years," Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) manager of the identity and status bureau Margit Ratnik said.

Ratnik said that the PPA doesn't have a better alternative to offer people instead of Mobile-ID. "This is definitely inevitably necessary. The only national alternative is an ID card. RIA is trying to figure out the new alternative product."

PPA doesn't have an overview of the national e-services where it's not possible to use Smart-ID instead of the Mobile-ID.

"PPA doesn't have an overall view whether it's possible to apply to a university or drivers license with Smart-ID," Ratnik said.

It's certain, however, that it's not possible to vote with Smart-ID. The next elections will take in March 2023.

SK ID Solutions: Joining the service too complicated

The current service provider and developer, SK ID Solutions, did not make an offer and they will not sign any new contracts with the state. Company manager Kalev Pihl said the state-ordered service's technical description was not reasonable, which is why they did not participate in the tender.

It is not a question of financial volume, but rather the slow growth of users. The company has a good reference, since it has also developed the Smart-ID platform, which is used by some 610,000 people, 2.5 times more than Mobiil-ID's 250,000.

"The primary expectation was not to get paid through the state procurement, but rather about making the service smoother for our users so that numbers grew faster. There are still upward trends, but they have been slow," Pihl said.

The company had a similar experience in Lithuania - SK ID Solutions has also provided the state and private sectors with separate platforms, but they do not eat into each other and work well alongside one another.

Although the state's Mobiil-ID service has a fee of €1 a month and the Smart-ID service is free, Pihl does not consider that a reason for why so many more people use Smart-ID. "The cost is not what puts the brakes on it. The main issue is how simple it is to get the service, become a user. The entry barrier [for Mobiil-ID] is much more complicated than it should be," Pihl said.

The company had planned on continuing the Mobiil-ID service before the tender was announced, it planned to do so with the help of mobile operators and not the state, allowing it to bypass one of the main concerns.

"There is an option of fixing it and that is what we are setting out to do with this private scheme. If a person goes to a mobile operator, its representative should be able to register them on the spot," Pihl said.

Activating the service currently sees clients having to go through a longer process, the Mobiil-ID must also be registered on the Police and Border Guard Board's website. That part would be skipped if it was a private sector service, although Pihl said the state should not make it so complicated, either.

"This plan of going forward in a new direction in July has been in the works for some time, we have worked on it for a few months. We have a plan to continue the service. It would be nice to involve the Republic of Estonia in some manner, but it is not a priority for us. We want to continue the service for our clients, but our current plan is to not extend our contract with the state," Pihl said.

He admitted, however, that the state has called them behind the negotiating table to discuss compromises. "It must be more simple and comfortable to become a user. The state has a clear role in that and that is a possible point of negotiations. We are working on something, but I cannot say that it has moved anywhere yet," Pihl noted.

RIA: working group is looking for a solution

The communication manager of RIA Helen Uldrich said that the ball is in their court, but they can't yet offer an alternative solution for the Mobile-ID. However, there's a working group, which is actively looking for the solution.

"The goal is to find a solution so that Mobile-ID could be used after July 1. What are the options, how will the partner be found, through procurement or negotiations, these are the details that the working group is currently working on," Uldrich said.

Uldrich said that it could be possible to extend the Smart-ID usage to public sector services, but there could be legal boundaries that should be solved in that case because it's still a self-identification document.

"The goal is to have a national electronic device next to the ID card, which acts as an identity document. As things are still in their initial stage, it's too early to say in which direction it is going," Uldrich said. "It's hard to say what the final solution will be. In terms of timing, we may be smarter in a month."

Uldrich added that even if the state can no longer issue a mobile ID due to not having a service partner, the developer of the mobile ID solution SK ID Solutions plans to continue with it in any case.

"Then there will be two private sector devices on the market (Smart-ID and Mobile-ID - ed.) But it would be in the interest of the state that we also have another state-guaranteed instrument that would also act as an identity document," Uldrich said recalling the crisis of 2017, when a security hole was discovered in the ID card certificates.

Editor's noted: This article was updated with comments from SK ID Solutions.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Kristjan Kallaste

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