Fri | Mar 23, 2018

Don’t blow billions on ID system

Published:Tuesday | June 20, 2017 | 12:02 AM


Do we seriously believe that the implementation of a National Identification System (NIDS) is going to fix Jamaica's crime problem?

That instead of getting more cars, police, equipment and expertise in crime-fighting, we should bank on a biometrically tricked-out NIDS.

A J$9b NIDS (that's the Jamaican-dollar equivalent of the US$68m loan the Government is seeking from the IDB to fund this project, according to a January 1, 2017 Gleaner article). Am I the only one that thinks this is nonsense?

Let's not forgot our first introduction to a biometric saviour. Two decades ago, we were told biometrics, in this case, an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), was the only way to fix our deteriorating electoral machinery; and that we needed to rapidly move to a secure fingerprint-triggered electronic voting solution in order to protect our fragile democracy.

Total amount spent - about US$20m, and 25 years later, we are still dipping our fingers in ink and manually checking a voters' list. And our democracy? Well, it seems to be doing just fine. Come on! We cannot seriously expect any NIDS to fix crime.

An additional reason given to justify this massive expenditure has been the need for the Government to identify who it is transacting business with, a job already being done by the Tax Registration Number (TRN).

What's wrong with the TRN as an identification number?

So why not slap a picture and the TRN on a ID card and create the NIDS? Something that's already done for a driver's licence.

That means the cost of building out this simplified national ID would be a tiny fraction of the J$9b budget for the planned NIDS.

Seriously, how can we be planning to mortgage our great grandchildren's future on a 'moon shot'? Jamaica is an impoverished nation of fewer than three million. We don't need to spend so much money!