The Jiangsu Provincial Government will begin issuing electronic marriage licenses through Alipay for couples whose nuptials are registered in the province, according to local media.

The move is part of an update to the provincial government’s Alipay mini-program, “Jiangsu Government Affairs”. Users are required to search for the mini-program in Alipay and scan their faces to verify their identity in order for it to be issued.

The system aims to increase convenience for individuals wanting to not only prove their marital status but also for those wanting to take out a mortgage, demolish a property, and transfer real estate, among others.

This is not the first time Alipay has created electronic services relating to marriage. Two years ago, it included a function to facilitate marriage appointments in its “City Service” mini-program.

Initiatives like this help local government digitize, which they hope will not only increase convenience but also improve the integrity of personal data. In April 2018, the government in Jiangxi province issued the first batch of ID chips for smartphone users. The smart chips, dubbed SIMeID,  attach to the phone’s SIM card and can store sensitive identifying information for safer verification over the internet.

China’s tech companies have caught onto this trend and have begun offering increasing numbers of government services on their various ecosystems, with Alibaba and Tencent leading the charge.

Alibaba is currently trialing its Alipay-based digital IDs in Hangzhou and Quzhou in Zhejiang province, and Fuzhou in Fujian province. The virtual IDs allow their users to book train tickets and check into hotels but are only accepted by local authorities.

Tencent began issuing ID cards though WeChat in December 2017. The cards were first provided in the southern city of Guangzhou. In August, telecommunications giant and smartphone manufacturer announced the launch of a pilot for its own electronic ID (eID) that is stored on the security chip within Huawei phones.

But the focus is not only on digital IDs. Tencent has been working with the health authorities in Beijing to create electronic health cards for residents. As part of the pilot, patients at Peking University Hospital and Beijing Friendship Hospital can benefit from the service. The company is also collaborating with the government to provide a WeChat-based e-pass that would make travel between Hong Kong and mainland China easier for Chinese citizens.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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