From Driver's Licenses Proof of Vaccination to Fishing Licenses, the World is Going All-Digital

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As of February, 85% of Americans own a smartphone.  The past decade has seen adoption skyrocket as mobile apps have become a global standard, as high-speed wireless access has increased, and as dumb phones have simply been pushed out the door as a result.  Just a decade ago, smartphone ownership in the U.S. stood at just 35%.

The fact is there’s little users can’t do on their smartphones.  Between smart wallets, communications and social media tools, and other mobile apps, they have access to their entire lives all in one place.  It’s why Connecticut and seven other states have launched digital driver’s licenses accessible through Apple Wallet.

Everything is going contactless.  It’s a trend that had already started, but certainly was accelerated by the pandemic that’s still part of our lives.  Travelers have been using mobile ticketing for years.  Why?  Because it’s easier.  You can change your seat assignments and get your new boarding pass without requiring help from an airline agent.  It’s also more convenient.  Most people have their phones accessible at all times, so accessing a mobile ticket removes one physical asset that has to be accessed and carried along.  People are much less likely to forget their smartphones than they are to misplace or forget their physical printed tickets.  For better or worse, it’s become a necessity.

So, as COVID-19 proof of vaccinations become required for an increasing number of activities, having access to it in digital format makes sense.  It’s already available online through the CDC’s vaccination portal, and for mobile users, it can be simply stored as an image.  Samsung users can also upload it to their Samsung Pay mobile wallets, adding a layer of security.

But why not make digital wallets capable of storing all sorts of relevant government issued documents?  If the smartphone is the center of our digital lives, isn’t that the logical place to store them, so they can be accessed securely whenever the need arises?

Take Louisiana, for instance.  Believe it or not, it LA Wallet App went live in 2018 on both Android and iOS platforms, making it the first digital driver’s license program in the country.  It was developed by software developer Envoc in collaboration with the Louisiana Governor, legislature, Office of Motor Vehicles, and other state agencies.  Currently, more than a million residents have loaded their driver’s licenses into their LA Wallets.  In addition, close to half-a-million residents have uploaded their COVID-19 vaccination status.

But, that’s not all.  Later this year, LA Wallet will be extended to allow people to upload their hunting and fishing licenses, adding another level of functionality and convenience for users.

“LA Wallet is continuing to grow, with the exploration of other features related to the pandemic and support for additional state services,” says LA Wallet co-founder Chad Lacour.  “This will provide increasing value to the citizens of Louisiana.”

For instance, residents can renew their driver’s licenses through the app, rather than having to physically visit the DMV.  There are other benefits, as well, such as not having to hand over a phone or physical license, because they include scannable barcodes for validation.  In fact, LA Wallet users are able to control exactly what information is and is not displayed to the verifying party, and verified information is not stored externally.

Some people are reluctant to bring everything into the digital world.  With the constant security breaches, that’s not surprising.  But, if you think about it, all that information is stored somewhere digitally, anyway, so by sticking with a physical driver’s license or vaccination record, there’s no additional guarantee of security.  But, if they are worried about it, people should take the time to make sure their devices and networks are properly secured, because it’s not just about driver’s licenses. 

The world is going digital and there’s not much anyone can do about it other than enjoy the convenience. For my most recent concerts and sporting events, I didn’t even have an option for a physical ticket and, frankly, I didn’t mind – and these mobile ticketing systems are easy enough for just about anyone with a basic understanding of smartphones to use successfully.




Edited by Erik Linask
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