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Catalan towns test innovative mobile app to reduce bureaucracy

Manlleu, Esparreguera and Castellar del Vallès participate in pilot project to safely carry out local procedures on your mobile

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06 September 2017 01:34 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

The Catalan towns of Manlleu, Esparreguera and Castellar del Vallès were chosen by the Catalan government to test out a new digital authentication system that will operate through mobile devices. The project is called ‘idCAT Mobile Connect,’ and it will allow users to securely access municipality portals through a mobile application – all without using usernames or passwords. The test will last six months, using a service designed by GSMA, the same international association that brings together more than 800 mobile phone operators worldwide by organizing the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona every year.

The Deputy Director of the Open Administration of Catalonia (AOC), Miquel Estapé, explained that many digital authentication systems “have been proven not to work for the majority of citizens.” “The most obvious case is the electronic ID identification card,” he elaborates, adding that “there are more than 40 million IDs with (an electronic) chip in the country, and the usage level is very low.” This is why, according to him, governments should “consider alternatives that are easier and more secure.”

 How does ‘Mobile Connect’ work?

‘Mobile Connect’ is a free service that allows users to identify themselves when using online services and applications. To do so, users only need to enter their telephone number and, through the terminal, confirm their identity and access the service. Since a password is not needed, user identity is verified through the mobile phone SIM card, and passwords don’t travel through the Internet. This service is currently available through Telefónica, Vodafone and Orange mobile providers.

  • “Although we have made a lot of progress in recent years, we can still go further”

    Miquel Estapé · Deputy Director of the AOC

Leaders for digital administration in the country

This relatively new service is already being used in different countries worldwide by individuals and private companies. Still, putting it to use for public administration would be a new advancement. Indeed, according to Deputy Director Miquel Estapé, the three municipalities hosting the test will be the first in Europe to implement this technology at the local level.

Estapé says that, in the last few years, Catalan administrations have been “leaders” when it comes to introducing digital administration within the country. Still, he thinks much more can be done. “Although we have made a lot of progress in recent years, we can still go further,” he said. The deputy director of the AOC detailed that “at the moment, the population of Catalonia only does 30% of its procedures electronically, although 80% of citizens are already regular Internet users.

The mayor Manlleu, Àlex Garrido, is very pleased that this Osonian municipality “has, for many years, been a pioneer in electronic administration." According to Garrido, the aim of the council is "to provide citizens with necessary City Council procedures, through electronic administration".

Improving online security and ease of access

The GSMA technological director of system developers, José Antonio Aranda, explained that the project was born out of the need for mobile operators to "improve the online security of their users.” “Through a study, we saw that the citizens accessed between 20 and 50 web pages,” he detailed, “where they had to identify themselves by means of usernames and passwords.” Aranda further explained that many citizens “forget their passwords, or use ones that are weak and easily hackable."

According to Aranda, this is why operators worldwide agreed to launch 'Mobile Connect,’ allowing web pages to be accessed “by using the mobile phone and without the need to use passwords.” Indeed, one of the strengths of the service is, according to its promoters, that it is a global initiative that can be used both in public and private companies. Therefore, as more administrations and companies are added to it, a user may conceivably be able to also access their online banking or consult medical results through the City Council portal.

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  • Representatives of the AOC, Manlleu Town Hall, GSMA, Movistar, Vodafone, and Orange present idCAT Mobile Connect (by ACN)