With students’ help, UT can implement digital student IDs

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Photo Credit: Andrew Choi | Daily Texan Staff

I left the gym with aching limbs, but proud of myself after a good workout. It was a toasty 85 degrees outside, but when I entered the Jester East building, I broke out in goosebumps — partly because the air conditioning hit me like a ton of bricks, partly because I realized I didn’t have my wallet on me. 

Thankfully, no one had moved my wallet from where I’d left it sitting on the ledge of the elliptical machine. But I couldn’t shake the stress I’d felt in those first few moments of panic. I don’t carry much in my wallet on a daily basis — about $5, an eco coin, my debit card and my student ID. The cash and the eco coin aren’t difficult to replace and I can cancel my debit card pretty quickly from my phone, but students, especially freshmen, need their UT IDs for pretty much everything on campus — getting into dorms, printing and paying for food with Dine In Dollars.

Almost everyone I know has either lost their own ID at some point or knows someone else who has. 

A simple way to fix this problem would be digital student IDs that students could access on a mobile app. Last semester, Student Government nursing representative Nicole Flannigan proposed that UT provide students digital access to student IDs. Students usually keep better track of their phone than their wallets and phones can be easily tracked if lost, meaning fewer students would likely lose access to their digital IDs than the physical cards. 

Prabhudev Konana, associate dean for instructional innovation, said it’s only a matter of time before digital IDs become the norm.

“They are convenient for students and they also have operational benefits for the University,” Konana said. 

With digital IDs, students could avoid waiting in long lines to upgrade their UT IDs at orientation and quickly make any updates to their information. 

To help get this project on its feet, UT should look to undergraduates to develop the technology and infrastructure that would make digital IDs feasible in the near future. 

“Technology is so advanced today that undergraduates themselves could come up with the digital interface needed for mobile student IDs,” Konana said. 

Business honors freshman Kaci Nguyen said outsourcing this project to undergraduates would benefit the University as well as the students. 

“If there’s a forum for students to submit ideas, it’ll be like a ‘survival of the fittest’ type of concept, so you’re going to have a lot of people submitting really good ideas and you can pick the best of them,” Nguyen said. “Also, if (UT) offers a cash prize for the best design, it’ll be a one-time payment versus having to fund the whole process.”

Additionally, students would know how to optimize the digital IDs to best fit their own needs and the needs of their peers and could provide designs that would optimize convenience and security. For the students whose designs get selected, a large project like this would help them add significant work experience to their portfolios.

The University would have to closely monitor students’ progress throughout the whole project and provide them with significant support and guidance, but only the world’s best and brightest become Longhorns. By channeling students’ brain power, UT can make sure digital IDs aren’t just a futuristic concept. 

Dasgupta is a neuroscience freshman from Plano.