The administration of Guangzhou, center of the southern coastal province of Guangdong, began on Monday a pilot plan that creates a virtual ID card, which follows the same purpose as the regular state-issued ID cards, through the WeChat accounts of enrolled users in the city’s Nansha district, according to a report by state news agency.
It said that trial will soon include the entire province and more expand across the nation from January next year.
The programme’s resolution would mark one of the most important milestones for WeChat after it was originally rolled out by Tencent as a mobile messaging service in 2011, and then grew into the country’s largest social network, as well as a successful online platform for cash and money transfers.
Shenzhen-based Tencent has calculated that WeChat, exchanged as Weixin on the mainland, recorded 980 million recurrent active users in the quarter ended September 30.
The WeChat ID record was co-developed by the research institute of the Ministry of Public Security and Tencent’s WeChat team, and raised by various banks and several other government departments.
The project is required to help deter online identity theft, as facial identification technology is used to verify applicants before their virtual ID cards get authorized.
Those tested will be able to use their WeChat ID to check-in hotels and apply for government sets without the need of bringing their physical ID cards.
Guangzhou’s WeChat programme, however, is not China’s first attempt to develop electronic ID cards using a smartphone app.
In June 2016, the office of the Public Security Bureau in the city of Wuhan, capital of the central Chinese province of Hubei, coupled up with Alipay to launch an electronic ID card service.
That plan with Alipay, China’s largest payments platform operator and a unit of Ant Financial Services Group, also intended to promote the use of computerized ID card in scenarios such as hotel check-in and going through surety inspection at railway stations and airports.