UPDATED: NIDS needed, says IDB president
Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, is urging Jamaicans to embrace the planned National Identification System (NIDS), which is facing some public pushback and a constitutional challenge.
The IDB has provided a loan of US$68 million, 20 per cent of which will go towards the rollout of the NIDS over a three-year period, with a pilot project for civil servants expected to get under way in January 2019.
"So what I would say to Jamaican people is, this is the road to modernity, this is the road to jump into the 21st century, and if you want your government to push along and move away from being in the 19th century in many ways, this is the way to do it," Moreno told The Gleaner during a visit to Jamaica for the official opening of the IDB's regional office on Montrose Road in St Andrew last Thursday.
AIM TO BOOST EFFICIENCY
NIDS will create a national digital registry for all Jamaicans and provide a national identification number that will be the main source of identity verification.
According to the Government, this will boost efficiency in the public sector, better facilitate e-commerce, and help to eradicate corruption and other criminal activities. The database will include a citizen's biographic, biometric, and demographic descriptors.
Moreno, who is serving his third term as IDB president, continued: "I realise that people do not like, or do not understand, or they think the Government is going to get into all their business. No."
He argued that Jamaica would be able to leverage the benefits of having a digital identity registry in an effort to generate economic growth.
"... It will create an environment, an ecosystem, such that over time, Jamaica can turn that into an innovation space. You see in a country like Singapore, even in terms of land mass, [it] is smaller than Jamaica, and they are one of the leading countries in the world in terms of fintech (financial technology). There are many things that Jamaica can develop."
NIDS battle gets under way October 22
While Jamaica seeks to join countries like Estonia, Finland, South Korea, and Uruguay in building out a digital identity framework, the People's National Party (PNP) is preparing for the constitutional challenge it has mounted in relation to sections of the National Identification System (NIDS) Act, which was passed into law last November.
The court case is set for October 22 to 24.
In May, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips asserted that the PNP believed that there were elements of the bill that infringed on the basic constitutional rights of citizens.
"It was poorly drafted as may be seen by the fact that there were some 264 amendments to the bill in the Parliament, which is perhaps a record as far as public legislation is concerned," said Phillips.
The NIDS loan from the IDB has a 24-year repayment period, and interest is based on the London Inter-bank Offered Rate.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article suggested that the US$68-million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank is solely for the purposes of rolling out the National Identification System.)