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Three in four Canadians want government services to be available online post COVID-19

Interac survey shows Canadians agree the pandemic has emphasized the need for digital IDs, but continue to cite security as a key adoption concern
Business survey

COVID-19 is transforming the way Canadians use their identity documents and how they prioritize accessing services digitally.

According to a new survey from Interac Corp., three in four Canadians (75 per cent) say government services should be accessible online instead of in-person, with approximately half agreeing it is more important now than pre-COVID-19 to access health (55 per cent) and government services (50 per cent), such as renewing a driver’s licence and registering for benefits, online. 

This appetite for a digital-first approach has been accelerated by Canadians’ increasing use of online services amid COVID-19, coupled with hygiene concerns around physical IDs. Nearly six in 10 (58 per cent) Canadians have been transacting in ways that reduce physical contact more often than before the pandemic, with nearly the same amount (59 per cent) citing worries about hygiene when handling physical IDs. Less than half (48 per cent) say they are comfortable accessing government services in-person now, a 25 per cent drop since pre-COVID-19. In addition to transactions, Canadians have been accessing various services online at increasing rates, with 37 per cent saying they accessed health services online more often than before COVID-19.

“The pandemic has fueled a greater need for innovation as Canadians recognize that digital access is needed not only to make life more convenient, but also to increase the speed by which Canadians can access government services in a crisis,” said Mark O’Connell, President and CEO, Interac Corp. “Physical identities can no longer be the status quo, and secure digital-first solutions, underpinned by government, must be adopted to meet the changing needs of Canadians.” 

Canadians continue to recognize the convenience of using digital IDs, with digital versions of identity documents such as driver’s licences and heath cards seen as 10 percentage points more convenient on average now than in 2019. However, security remains a key consideration for adoption, with nearly seven in 10 (67 per cent) Canadians noting they are open to using a digital ID if it means their identity data is better protected than it is today. Even more than in 2019, Canadians place greater emphasis on transparency around how information is used (70 per cent vs. 58 per cent, in 2020, 2019, respectively) as well as endorsement from banks (59 per cent vs. 48 per cent) and governments (57 per cent vs. 46 per cent).

Canadians are particularly keen to use digital IDs when accessing government services, as six in 10 (61 per cent) expect to be able to use these services online more often in the future. Over half (53 per cent) would be interested in using a digital ID to access these services with nearly the same amount (51 per cent) saying the government should prioritize providing Canadians with digital IDs in addition to physical IDs. 

“COVID-19 has highlighted new expectations for the future of Canada’s digital economy, while exacerbating security concerns over current forms of identity,” said Debbie Gamble, Chief Officer, Innovation Labs and New Ventures, Interac Corp. “In preparing for this future, Interac, alongside its subsidiary company 2Keys Corporation, is working with public and private sector stakeholders to bring digital identification solutions to market in order to address the increasing need for secure, convenient and privacy-enhancing identity verification by Canadians, while yielding a high degree of trust.” 

Interac commissioned Hill+Knowlton Strategies to conduct a national online survey of 996 adult residents of Canada, between Aug. 10 and 14. The sample was randomly drawn from a panel of potential survey respondents. Post-stratification weights were applied to the sample based on 2016 census population parameters to ensure representation by province of Canada, age and gender. An associated margin of error for a probability-based sample of this size would be ±3%, 19 times out of 20.