E-passports on the horizon – Wynter
Jamaicans are on the cusp of receiving electronic passports (e-passports) as part of the transformation process taking place at the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA).
This forms part of the new national Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) project, which was launched on Wednesday at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel, St Andrew.
The PKI project will be rolled out during the next seven months, with the objective of making Jamaica a more digital society, in which there is ubiquitous use of information and communications technology in all spheres, such as home, work, school and recreation.
It also forms part of the Government’s National Identification System (NIDS), and will enable trusted electronic identities for people, services and things, and make it possible to implement strong authentication, data encryption and digital signatures, based on a certifying authority.
Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Fayval Williams, who spoke at the launch, said the project will be a game changer for Jamaicans.
“Right now, PICA and eGov are the first movers. Coming down the line next to use the PKI infrastructure will be the Registrar General’s Department, so get ready. Their new service portal, when developed, will allow persons to apply online and print their digital birth certificates,” she explained.
“The significance of the national Public Key Infrastructure is that once implemented, Jamaica will have the foundation to begin using digital signatures and inscription nationally. The purpose of a digital signature is to guarantee that the individual sending the message or the document is really who he or she claims to be,” she said.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer, PICA, Andrew Wynter, said the PKI is a critical cornerstone for the building out of the technological and digital footprint that the agency has embarked on for the last year.
“With electronic passports, this technology is over 10 years old, and almost a billion e-passports have been issued by many countries. E-passports have been issued in Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East, and approximately 11 of the 15 CARICOM states have already implemented e-passports,” he noted.
“The increasing use of biometrics and other technologies are shaping the global future of border security frameworks,” Wynter added.
He pointed out that the new e-passport will indicate to any country Jamaicans go to that the country’s system is fully in line with any passport system.
Wynter said the PKI will be used to digitally sign each e-passport, in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s technical requirement.
“Software certificates are shared with immigration services worldwide, enabling other countries to fully validate and authenticate our documents,” he informed.
“When we travel abroad and the immigration overseas swipes our passport, there’s a one-to-one authentication system, which will allow them to confirm that this is the true identity [of the person],” Wynter noted, adding that this will protect against identity theft.