Show the Thing 5: Uruguay (AGESIC) - Digital ID and digital signature

This is fifth in a series of blog posts for Show the Thing. Hosted by Public Digital and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, Show the Thing brings together government digital teams from around the world. This month, we heard from experts in Uruguay's Digital Government Agency (AGESIC) on its innovative platforms for digital identity and digital signatures.

Uruguay’s position as a leader and pioneer in digital government in Latin America is driven by Uruguay's Digital Government Agency, known as AGESIC.

Established in 2005, AGESIC promotes and implements technology and digital solutions that benefit Uruguay's government, businesses, and citizens. The organisation has played a central role in developing technological infrastructure, digitising public services, and enhancing digital capabilities across central government.

One prominent initiative is the development and widespread adoption of digital ID and digital signature solutions.

In our 5th session of Show the Thing, we were joined by Hebert Paguas, Executive Director at AGESIC. He talked us through pioneering AGESIC programmes, ID Uruguay and, and the impacts these have had on revolutionising digital ID and digital signatures.

Mr. Paguas’ colleagues Juan Pablo Garcia (Information Security) and Laura Amado (International relations officer), demonstrated the platforms and addressed audience questions.

ID Uruguay

ID Uruguay is a digital platform launched by AGESIC in 2019 which uses four methods of personalised ID through a single channel. It provides access to more than 190 digital services, and enables over 1,500 online procedures including essential services such as accessing healthcare records.

The platform is able to integrate, through the use of a chip, with physical national ID cards, owned by 85% of Uruguayan adults. Advanced level access on the platform is equivalent to in-person interactions, eliminating the need for physical attendance, and making ID Uruguay a one-stop hub for online public services.

The ID system has a three-tiered security approach, with basic, intermediate, and advanced levels. Each level necessitates progressively stricter access requirements. The range and sensitivity of services accessible at each tier align with the level of identification provided.

Digital signatures

The platform enables citizens to make use of a range of signature requirements, including the capability to create a visible signature and the convenience of applying signatures to multiple documents in bulk.

Extending Uruguay's digital signature platform across borders has allowed signature validation on documents from Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. This increases efficiency and ensures that the thousands of Uruguayans residing in these countries are not excluded.

To attain high compatibility, the platform is supplied through 4 providers and compatible with both xml and pdf formats.

Widespread adoption

The success of these programmes is best demonstrated by their adoption. Over 1.6 million citizens are registered on ID Uruguay representing a majority of the adult population. Each day, there are 60,000 authentications processed through the platform.

A screengrab of the ID Uruguay platform
The ID Uruguay platform
A snapshot of the platform
The platform

This reflects the platforms’ user-friendly and accessible design, the available range and utility of services, and their ability to be accessed through various devices including mobile phones.

Building an environment for success

AGESIC's delivery of its digital ID and e-document platforms exemplifies the core objectives of our Show the Thing series. The success is built upon foundational principles we've consistently observed throughout our events. These include:

Working towards clearly defined outcomes. AGESIC has a clear mandate to develop Uruguay’s e-government and operates within the framework of the Digital Uruguay Agenda. This agenda prioritises digital inclusion and open government principles. It also places a strong emphasis on collaboration, user-centred approaches, and innovation.

Implementing strategically and iteratively. Uruguay’s digital ID initiative is a long-term and continuously evolving programme. Its legal and political framework was established in 2009 with the enactment of law 18600, which set the foundation for electronic ID and signatures. The market and technical infrastructure, including the accreditation of providers and the integration of cloud services, were developed prior to the launch of services in 2019.

Building on precedent. Drawing on established precedents, AGESIC has adopted global insights and emulated the European model within its services. This influence is evident in the clear design and robust security protocols, building on the practices of early adopters, such as Estonia and Scandinavian countries.

Promoting cross-border collaboration. Throughout the development process, Uruguay has actively engaged with other nations, especially its neighbouring MERCOSUR countries. This has helped create solutions that are interoperable and benefit from insights and experiences of similar activities in the region.

Shaping Uruguay’s digital future

Development on digital ID and signature platforms continues, with several key initiatives planned.

This includes efforts to make these platforms more accessible on mobile devices and to introduce Competence Seals to verify competence and authenticity, boosting trust in digital services. In addition, new services like Advanced Electronic Signatures and Long Term Archival will be developed to ensure the long-term security and integrity of digital documents.

Digital ID has played a crucial role in AGESIC's strategy. However, it is just one part of a broader and sustained programme to build a digital society. This has included innovative initiatives as diverse as supplying computers to all students, and enabling traceability for bovine livestock.

This focus has propelled Uruguay to become one of the most digitally advanced countries in Latin America. It was the first nation in the region to join the Digital Nations, with recognition for its work in reducing the digital divide.

As AGESIC continues to innovate, it is well-positioned to influence the discourse on digital government, both regionally and globally, while continuing to enhance the lives of its own citizens.

Thank you

AGESIC’s Show the Thing presentation received excellent audience feedback. We particularly appreciated the live demonstration as a genuine example of ‘showing the thing’.

We’d like to extend our thanks again to the AGESIC team and to all attendees who contributed to lively chat and discussion. Thanks also to our hosts Dan Abadie and David Eaves for facilitating our bilingual session, and to our translators Carlos Gonzalez-Rivera and Carol Maldonado.

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