Argentina just made driving licences digital

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President Macri using the new digital driving licence service earlier today (Photo: Daniel Abadie)

The government of Argentina has just announced a new digital driving licence, replacing paper and plastic cards with a digital document stored securely on users’ smartphones. The service was created, from scratch, in just 65 days.

We’ve been working with the Argentinian digital team for a couple of years now. Back in June last year, we wrote about the fantastic scale and scope of the work they’ve completed to date. In summary:

  • a new single domain website for government: argentina.gob.ar
  • over 1000 old websites closed
  • over 780 business services transformed
  • a service delivery platform called MiArgentina

The last in that list, MiArgentina, is a platform that sits at the heart of the new digital driving licences. There’s a MiArgentina app available for iOS and Android smartphones, which acts as a digital document repository: citizens can use it to store digital versions of their ID card, disability certificate, vaccination certificate, vehicle insurance documents and now, driving licence.

Years ago, getting a driving licence in Argentina used to mean going to a government office in person. What’s more, licences weren’t standardised: there were slightly different processes and fees in different provinces. Getting your first licence used to take 15 days. Since 2008, there’s been a rolling programme of simplification and standardisation. You still need to visit an office, but you can now book an appointment online.

The new MiArgentina integration means that users can submit licence requests on their phone, using an email address and a unique number called Credencial Unica de Identitficación Laboral (CUIL). Then they are asked to provide biometric backup in the form of a photo taken on the device, and to make certain gestures in front of the camera. The policy that made this possible came via a formal resolution from the Minister and a disposition from the Undersecretary of Digital Government (more on him later), acting on advice from the digital team and based on what they had learned from user research. There was no separate “policymaking” process.

This new digital licences will affect up to 19 million people, and save at least £12 million per year (the cost of not replacing plastic card licences, which will now be phased out).

Platforms made this possible

Screenshot of the driving licences page on argentina.gob.ar

It’s truly impressive that this was done so quickly: the decision to build this service was taken at the end of October last year.

That speed was made possible because the MiArgentina platform was already in place, providing essential digital infrastructure, a notifications system, and 1.2 million active users with verified identities.

Impressive again is the fact that the governments of Chile and Uruguay are lined up to use the same digital licences, because so many Argentines drive there regularly. Cross-border services aren’t just confined to Europe.

A big deal

This is a big deal – not just for Argentina, not just for South America, but globally. Argentina is taking digital service delivery via platforms and user-centered design seriously. They’re racing ahead. Here’s an article about it in Argentinian national newspaper La Nacion – and here’s an English translation.

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The announcement even made it on to prime time TV

Congratulations to Andrés Ibarra, until recently the Minister of Modernization and now Deputy Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers, who set the ball rolling in the first place. And to his boss, President Macri, who has a bold vision to accelerate delivery of digital versions of all existing paper services. The country goes to the polls later this year: it will be interesting to see if digital government services have a role to play in the campaign.

I mentioned the Undersecretary of Digital Government. That’s Daniel Abadie, the man we’ve worked with most closely over the last couple of years. Daniel is a terrific leader and we’ve enjoyed spending time with him. We’re sending special congratulations to him and his team, and we’re eager to see what they build next.

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