Uses of digital ID expanded to access more services

Yang Jian
Shanghai's health QR code, or Suishenma digital ID, has grown to replace social security, traffic cards and other certificates.
Yang Jian

Shanghai's health QR code, or the Suishenma digital ID, has expanded its scope to cover social security and traffic cards as well as other certificates for citizens.

The Suishenma code was initiated in February 2020 to check the travel history of individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. It later became the digital ID for citizens and companies due to its convenience and efficiency. Foreigners and those from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan also can apply for Suishenma and enjoy eligible services.

The QR code has been used over 3.7 billion times by some 54 million people since it was initiated, said Zhu Zongyao, deputy director of the city government office.

It is a key part of Shanghai's unified e-governance platform, the Government Online-Offline Shanghai portal, which offers more than 3,000 online approvals.

The QR code, which can be displayed on WeChat, Alipay or the city's Suishenban app, can now replace the city's transport card, allowing users to take buses or subways by scanning the code.

It has been used 4.63 million times on local buses and over 6.33 million times on the city's Metro lines, Zhu told a press conference on Tuesday.

Its uses will be further extended to include access in future to local ferry services and intercity railways, he said.

Citizens will be able to scan the code to check into local hotels, while students can use the single code to access facilities and services on campuses.

The code can also be used as a social security card at over 400 local public hospitals. Users can shop at over 1,400 pharmacies and register to buy medicines with the code.

It can also replace the readers' card at Shanghai Library and access "red" sites. During the China Flower Expo in Chongming District, visitors can scan the code to enter the park.

Shanghai has ranked top among Chinese cities in terms of e-governance standards. The Government Online-Offline Shanghai platform was ranked as one of the best examples of urban governance by the United Nations in 2020.

"The unified platform, along with the Suishenma and electronic license, has become a key tool to drive the urban digital transformation of Shanghai," Ma Chunlei, secretary general of Shanghai, said on Tuesday.

About 60 government departments have offered 3,197 services on the one-stop platform. Since it was initiated in 2018, more than 150 million cases have been handled online, or about 134,000 cases every day.

"Over 70 percent of government issues, for both companies and individuals, have been processed through the platform," said Ma. It means customers don't need to meet any service staff in person but can finish their applications online.

Shanghai was named the world's "smartest city" at the Smart City Expo World Congress in 2020, becoming the first Chinese city to win the award.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the popularity of the integrated service platform.

An international version of the platform was launched in November to meet the rising demand of local expats. Another special version for the elderly has also been released. The platform now has more than 54 million individual users and 2.27 million companies.

About 387,000 expats have also begun using the platform, said Ma.

A full life-cycle digital service system has been developed for individuals on the platform from birth to elderly caring, he said. 

The online services now cover 12 fields, including child care, health and medical services, transport, education, culture and tourism, living, food and drug safety, environmental protection and legal services.

For companies, it offers six services, including registration, preferential policies, financial, taxation and employment. It is part of the city government's efforts to create the world's top-class business environment, Ma said.

There are also 119 issues that allow people in the Yangtze River Delta region to make cross-provincial applications through the platform. People from other Yangtze Delta cities, for instance, can check into local hotels with the Suishenma digital ID and transfer hukou, or residence permits.

Meanwhile, citizens no longer need to take head shots repeatedly for various certificates, such as ID, driving license or passport.

As part of the e-governance platform, a unified photo bank has been established, collecting the head shots citizens took when applying for ID or a passport. The photos will be tailored automatically into different sizes and used for future applications of other certificates, according to the city's police authority.

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