Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Devon Dick | Rethink the National Identification card

Published:Thursday | November 23, 2017 | 12:00 AM

In a newspaper advertisement, the National Identification System (NIDS) facts was stated as 'No DNA; No Bank Account Information; No Fraud; No penalty for three years; No exclusion from health and other essential services'. The advertisement then goes on to claim that 'The new ID will make your life better. It will ensure a more prosperous future for you and your children'. From that information, it is very clear what information will not be demanded and what will not result from having the new ID. However, what was lacking was what information will be demanded.

Furthermore, the outcome is too syrupy, with a promise to make your life better. How will the ID make one's life better? Suppose you are satisfied with life as it is, can one not participate in this new system? It would be better to say something like it would make doing business with government easier, quicker and simpler and give an example. The public education campaign needs a rethink.

In addition, the rationale for the new ID seems weak. Prime Minister (PM) Andrew Holness in a television report said the ID is necessary because we need to know 'Who' is engaging in corruption in order to fight corruption. But with respect, Mr PM, the issue is not who is engaging in the corruption because we know who already. However, because of our 'informa fe dead' culture people are scared to pass on information and/or evidence. In addition, the witness protection programme is porous and people go to court on behalf of the State at great risk to their lives. Additionally, the security forces need additional resources to do better investigation and turn information into evidence. Many persons know the 'runnings'. Those who do not know should listen to reggae artiste Protege's song Blood Money which relates how blood money runs the nation.

The advert gets more interesting because of the curious statement 'no penalty for three years'. Does this mean getting an ID is mandatory? To make not registering for a national ID an offence could be problematic. If you pay a fine and that is the end of the matter, it means persons who are rich will get an advantage because they pay the fine and not bother with the National ID, which defeats the purpose of it being mandatory. If the plan is that one can be repeatedly fined for the same offence, then it gets ridiculous, and when does it stop!

Finally, some countries have negatives about this system. South Korea faces $1b bill after hackers raided national ID database (The Register Oct 14, 2014) exposing 80 per cent of the population to identity theft. One expert said the problems have grown to a point where finding a way to solve them looks unlikely. How many of us have had people hack into our email accounts and take them over? Hacking is a real threat.

It is more secure when you do business and you get different numbers from each place rather than one having one number and that number is for everything. Think about this. Is it more secure to have one password for every bank, phone, computer, security gate or more secure to have different passwords for each facet of one's life?

In 2010, Theresa May, then UK Home Secretary now PM, decided to scrap the compulsory national identity card. May said the scrapping of compulsory ID cards would reduce the control of the State over decent, law-abiding people and hand back power to them. The then deputy PM, Nick Clegg, said, "The wasteful, bureaucratic and intrusive ID card system represents everything that has been wrong with government" (See Guardian May 27, 2010).

We need a rethink.

- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com