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YPF talks about the importance of verifiable National ID on e-healthcare

Update : 01 Sep 2020, 11:08 AM

As the world grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become abundantly clear that technological advancement and innovation, more than ever before, are going to be crucial in furthering any economy. Nowhere does this appear to be more pertinent today than in healthcare.

It is in this light that the Youth Policy Forum organized a webinar titled Verifiable National ID: Impact on E-Healthcare on August 29, 2020 under its YPF Technology and Big Data Network wing. Along with several members of YPF, the webinar featured a distinguished panel with expertise in digital healthcare and information technology. The panelists were Sylvana Q Sinha, Founder of Praava Health, Mahdi Mashrur Matin, CA Manager and Information Security Consultant at ICT Division, and Sajid Rahman, Co-founder and CEO of Digital Healthcare Solutions.

The webinar’s principal aim was to highlight just how vital it was for Bangladesh to adopt a verifiable National ID and how important that would be for the country’s health sector, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The webinar began with a presentation consisting of YPF’s own research, highlighting the current shortcomings in Bangladesh when it came to providing a verifiable National ID, including the technical aspects, its socio-economic impact, and finally its effects on digital and e-health care. Members of YPF presented their recommendations -- based on data, research, and case studies from countries around the world -- on how Bangladesh could learn and better the system.

The presentation was followed by a discussion with the esteemed panelists, who were quick to share their own experiences with regards to identification and impact on healthcare. Both Sylvana Q Sinha and Sajid Rahman noted that while their organizations had their own systems of identifying and registering, the value of having horizontal and vertical integration when it comes to identification, which would be provided by expanding upon the current national ID in Bangladesh, would be extremely helpful, particularly with Covid-19’s effects.

“In Bangladesh, what we have is a National ID, which is good, but the challenge is that it’s not digital. So if you wanted to have a digital identity which is portable and private, essentially an SSI (self sovereign identity) it would be very helpful if the government could come up with a central point of truth as far as identity is concerned,” said Sajid Rahman.

Sylvana Q Sinha was quick to agree with Sajid Rahman’s points, stating: “It would be wonderful if we could add that as a layer of the initial authentication. We would all certainly benefit from it.”

However, when it came to possible solutions, Mahdi Mashrur Matin, CA Manager and Information Security Consultant, ICT Division noted that it was easier said than done, and immediately brought up what he termed as “fault lines.”

“We have some databases of NID against phone number mapping by BTRC’s telecom databases, but we do not have such data in NID databases [of the Election Commission]. These two cannot be merged right now.”

Mahdi Mashrur Matin further added that there was little incentive currently for these organizations to address this problem. 

“These organizations don’t have ways to talk with each other. They are [also] not bound to solve this problem as they are not liable to solve the identity problem of Bangladesh. BTRC is liable to solve the telecommunication problems in Bangladesh. The Election Commission is liable to solve election-related problems in Bangladesh. Who solves the identity related problems? That should be answered from the very top of the government.”

Conversation was then moved to the issue of insurance, with everyone on the panel acknowledging the extremely low insurance penetration within Bangladesh, coupled with the very high cost of healthcare in general.

“If any family has a health incident, [if] someone develops cancer, it can be really financially debilitating. It’s the number one reason individuals and families slip back into poverty,” stated Sylvana Q Sinha.

Sajid Rahman wasted little time in connecting the issue of health insurance with identity, particularly when it came to detecting fraud. “From our experience, when we launched our insurance product, there was huge fraud. The reason reliable, authenticated, [and] digital identity is very important is because it reduces fraud,” he stated.

The discussion moved next to e-medicine at large, and why the general population had not quite embraced it, despite it being a far safer option during the pandemic. While Sajid Rahman keenly noticed the behavioral change it would require to break away from the traditional doctor-patient in person routine, Sylvana Q Sinha was more optimistic, noting that within Praava, patients appreciated being able to access their medical records without the need to come physically to pick them up.

The webinar moved on to the all important topic of cyber security, which is always going to be top of mind when conversation arises regarding the digitization of identity. Addressing a question by the audience, Mahdi Mashrur Matin believed that as far as current databases are concerned in Bangladesh, they are fairly secure.

“The NID database we currently have, they regularly go through VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing) in every quarter. The government for the last few years [has] been particularly pushing for getting few security certifications like ISO 27001 for each of their data centres. But like anything, there is scope for improvement.”  

Concluding with what was possible, both from the corporations as well as the government, in moving forward with this issue of identity, both Sylvana Q Sinha and Mahdi Mashrur Matin opined that there was much that could be done.

“The concept of identity is a challenging one. I would be very eager to collaborate with the government to figure out how we could introduce that, because it would be very beneficial for patients to have the data integrated across the system,” Sylvana concluded.

Mahdi Mashrur Matin went a step further, essentially laying out three steps the government can take to get the ball rolling. “Make one institute that is in charge of rolling out this unique identity in Bangladesh. Collaborate with the NID database. Roll out mass campaigns, that in the next 6-8 months, everyone has to register their mobile number with their NID number.”

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