Bhutan is undergoing a digital revolution. The nationwide launch of the Bhutan National Digital Identity (NDI) on October 13, 2023, is more than just a technological achievement; it’s a testament to Bhutan’s commitment to its citizens and the creation of a secure and inclusive digital ecosystem.
The NDI serves as the linchpin of Bhutan’s digital economy, offering fast, secure, and trusted interactions between individuals and service providers. It promises equal access to government, commercial, and banking services for all Bhutanese citizens, bridging the gap between urban centers and remote rural communities.
The journey to the NDI began with the inauguration of the National Digital Identity (NDI) project earlier this year. On February 21, 2023, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck made history by becoming the first digital citizen of Bhutan. This momentous event marked a significant milestone in Bhutan’s digital transformation journey and holds great promise for the future with the Crown Prince leading the way as the country’s inaugural digital citizen.
Initiated by Royal Command, the National Digital Identity Project forms the bedrock of Bhutan’s national digital transformation strategy, the Digital Drukyul Flagship Program. The core philosophy underpinning the NDI is the concept of self-sovereign identity (SSI), complemented by the use of Decentralized Identity (DID) technology. In essence, it grants individuals greater control over their personal information, allowing them to decide who can access their data. Even the government is unable to access individual records, ensuring privacy, security, and consent as fundamental principles of the NDI.
The Bhutan NDI project is built on a strong foundation of principles: making verified identity the cornerstone of digital interactions, fostering a harmonious digital ecosystem for efficient government and business service delivery, offering compliance- aligned verification and authentication services, and maintaining agility and innovation to adapt to the evolving digital transaction landscape.
Notably, in July, Bhutan achieved another milestone with the enactment of the National Digital Identity Act, making it the first sovereign state to implement a comprehensive decentralized digital identity framework. The NDI Act bestows legal recognition upon digital credentials issued through the Bhutan NDI, marking a significant leap in the integration of digital transactions with existing laws and regulations.
The NDI is not just a source of pride for Bhutanese citizens; it is a testament to Bhutan’s commitment to inclusion and innovation. It represents a critical step in the journey towards a digital nation- one that leverages technology to transform services and empowers citizens by giving them ownership of their personal data.
Furthermore, the NDI’s potential is not confined within Bhutan’s borders. As governments around the world increasingly turn to digitization and digital ID systems, Bhutan’s NDI stands out as a unique and exportable model. It offers valuable insights into how to build a secure, inclusive, and innovative digital ecosystem.
In an age where technology is transforming the world, Bhutan is setting an example of how to harness the power of digital identity for the greater good. The NDI is more than a project; it’s a vision for a better, more connected, and secure future-one that not only benefits Bhutan but has the potential to inspire a global digital transformation.