Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Government seeks to put national ID fears to rest

Published:Thursday | June 22, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart chief technical director Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Division in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Public fears that the much-talked-about National Identification System (NIDS), when passed into law, will not be as secure as intended, have been dispelled by the Government.

Chief Technical Director in the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart explained that the system will be "safe, secure, and good for business".


One-ID system


"Let me be clear. NIDS will become Jamaica's first real national identification protocol. It is to be a one-ID system in Jamaica that instead of carrying around multiple IDs, each of us will have one single ID that will allow us to do business with the Government," Lynch-Stewart said at a press conference at the OPM's banquet hall yesterday.

Concerns regarding security and privacy, she said, have been taken into account, and the technical team that has responsibility for the new ID system is ensuring that it is compliant with the international and security standards that are required to ensure data security.

"The other benefit is that it's going to be the platform for the economy to become a digital economy, which means it will have positive impact on our growth," she said.

The NIDS project is being funded jointly by the Government of Jamaica and the Inter-American Development Bank at a cost of $68 million and will be used to improve and upgrade the information and communication technology systems across multiple government agencies.

Lynch-Stewart made it clear that the system would not collect DNA data. Instead, it will create a new, clean database to collect two forms of biometric data: fingerprint and facial recognition.

The new ID system, which is scheduled for a phased rollout, starting September 3, 2018, will provide each citizen with a randomised nine-digit National Identification Number called an NIN. Citizens and legal residents will also receive a National Identification Card, which bears the number, a photo, a single signature, and other basic information about the holder.

Lynch-Stewart explained that citizens would be able to access their Programme for the Advancement through Health and Education and National Insurance Scheme benefits, health and education benefits, immigration services, and more.

Programme Director Warren Vernon further emphasised the system's foolproof security feature, telling journalists that government agencies and private-sector partners would not be able to access the database. He said that the system only verifies data that have been provided and does not allow for browsing.

The layered rollout and management of the system will be handled by a new agency, the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), pending the passage of the NIRA Act, 2017.

The NIRA will, therefore, replace the Registrar General's Department and is tipped to provide more enhanced services.