Joint Learning Activity on Electronic Identity Card, 21 November 2008, Brussels, Belgium


A pioneering joint learning activity took place on 21 November 2008. It was organised within the framework of the Good Governance for Development (GfD) in Arab Countries Initiative and hosted by FEDICT, the Belgian Ministry in charge of Information and Communication Technology. This activity followed the Expert Seminar on the Business Case for Digital Identity Management organised by the OECD in Paris on 19-20 November 2008.



Delegates from five Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia) participated in the expert meeting and joint learning activity.

The joint learning activity was opened by Mr Jan Deprest, General Manager, FEDICT, Ambassador Chris Hoornaert, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the OECD and Mr Christian Vergez, Head of the Innovation and Integrity Division, Public Governance and Territorial Development Directorate, OECD. 

Ambassador Hoornaert, who is also co-chair of the Steering Group of the GfD Initiative, stressed the importance of capacity building activities - such as this workshop - to create learning communities and knowledge networks around concrete governance issues. These kinds of activities are fundamental to strengthen project ownership and a practical-oriented approach to problem solving in both OECD and Arab countries.

From FEDICT, Mr Frank Leyman, Manager International Relations, Mr Frank Cornelis, eID Card Architect and Mr San Van Den Eynde, Service Delivery Manager, presented detailed information regarding the creation and implementation of identity cards and answered practical questions posed by the Arab experts. A tour of the card production factory was headed by Mr Ronny Depoortere, Senior Vice-President, ZETES P.A.S.S. and a presentation of the legal aspects of electronic identity was made by Ms Samoera Jacobs, Legal Advisor, FEDICT.


The objective of the joint learning activity was to unite a small group of experts from Arabic countries who have either implemented or started to implement an electronic identity card in order to learn from Belgium’s experience in the conception, implementation and production of the Belgian identity card. 


Lessons learned from the experience of Belgium

A number of learning points based on the experience of Belgium in implementing the eID card emerged during the workshop discussion. These provide useful indications on the practical design, implementation and development of electronic identify cards:

  • Focus on rationalising and cleaning up the back-offices (e.g. public registers) before issuing the card. Common data definitions and system interconnections among registers provide the adequate environment necessary for eID deployment.
  • Strategic decisions related to eID implementation need to be taken into account in the early stages of the project development and properly sequenced. These include the following for example:
    • ID environment: online or offline?
    • Card solution: single or multi-application?
    • Lifecycle: 2/3 years or more?
    • Costs: what initial and more long-term investments are required?
  • An adequate level of take-up of and familiarity with ICT among the population should be reached before implementing the eID card to avoid low levels of usage and loss of investment. At the time of the introduction of the eID card almost 50% of the population was using Internet.
  • Start small and scale up. Base your decision to develop an eID on a solid business case which highlights the benefits for the users as well as the cost and possible risks in development. A piloting phase should also be included to test acceptability and spot internal resistances.
  • Think about quick-wins to gain support and focus on marketing campaigns to enlarge the user-base and increase awareness of the benefits among the population. In the Belgian experience, segmenting the market and identifying a target group (e.g. young people) was imperative to gaining acceptance and lifting take-up.



Several factors contributed to the success of the meeting:

  • The animated participation of experts from Arab countries currently implicated in the establishment of an electronic identity card and thus highly desirous to examine the experience of the Belgian experts.
  • The extremely  practical nature of the presentations made by the Belgian experts along with their creation an open environment in which multi-faceted discussions took place and the many questions posed by the Arabic participants were encouraged and responded to.
  • The meeting was held following an OECD expert meeting to which the Arab participants were also invited (Paris, 19-20 November 2008). This meeting had discussed the costs and benefit of the management of electronic identity thus making it possible to closely link theory and practice during the joint learning activity.


The principle behind the joint learning activity was recognised to be of great interest for both the co-organisers and participants from Arabic countries as it led to many practical applications within their various countries. 


The following conclusions were decided upon:

  • The OECD Secretariat would circulate the participants’ contact information so as to constitute a virtual knowledge sharing network.
  • Having noted the benefits of the joint learning activity, Morocco expressed an interest in hosting a subsequent meeting in order to continue the dialogue on introducing eID cards. 
  • The development of administration portals was identified as a priority subject for future meetings. The participants wish in particular to benefit from the United Kingdom's and Austria’s experience in this field.




Participants List







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