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PBS lands national ID contract in Barbados

Published:Friday | September 11, 2020 | 12:09 AM

Tech solutions provider Productive Business Solutions Limited, PBS, has been contracted to assist Barbados with a digital ID and national ID card replacements, a job the company says is similar to work being done on the identification system that Jamaica is developing.

The Barbados digital identity system card-replacement project is an initiative of the Ministry of Innovation Science and Smart Technology, MIST, and the Electoral Department. Negotiations between PBS Barbados and the government of Barbados took place over three years.

The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“One of the solutions that we are delivering is something called PKI – public key infrastructure – and we’re doing the same thing here in Jamaica as well with NIDS,” PBS Chief Operating Officer for the Caribbean, Michael Lewis, told the Financial Gleaner.

Jamaica’s original NIDS programme, under which PBS was contracted asthe provider of hardware and software technology, was put on hold for redesign after a successful constitutional challenge.

The NIDS programme is still alive, for which $1.6 billion was assigned in the national Budget this year. In January, under the Digital Jamaica initiative, the Government launched a National Public Key Infrastructure Project, which Technology Minister Fayval Williams said would allow for data encryption and secured digital signatures for online transactions.

Lewis said of the Barbados card-replacement project that PBS, a subsidiary company of Jamaica’s Musson Group, had previously worked with the Barbadian government on a similar digital solution for their immigration system. PBS operates in 15 countries.

Barbados already has a national ID system, which Lewis said the card-replacement project is meant to improve.

“They wanted to upgrade their card from just being a piece of plastic to a small card with a chip on it,” he said.

Online transactions

The digital identity system, slated for completion by December, will allow for user authentication in online transactions and facilitate the signing of documents electronically. Information on the card will be stored on computer chip, similar to credit and debit card technology.

The system will also facilitate the secure electronic transfer of information for a range of activities, such as e-commerce, Internet banking and e-communications, Lewis said.

PBS will be partnering with Entrust Datacard, an American company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that’s regarded as one of the largest providers of technologies to establish trusted identities and conduct highly secure transactions.

“One of the things about this technology is that we effectively create a mobile ID. With that, we can store any other type of identification in digital format on your wallet,” Lewis said, adding that with the Barbados ID being a smart card, the technology has the potential for added functionalities, such as how governments make payments to their citizens, whether for welfare or other disbursements.

“While these features are not a part of the scope of work in Barbados, we’re already having discussions about utilising the technology,” he said.

Lewis would not be drawn out on the value of the Barbados government contract, saying it is not public knowledge. Nor would he say whether biometric data such as fingerprints will be stored on the cards.

“Regarding some of the security features, we don’t have the details out there, but we will have many features that with mitigate the possibility of fraud. We wouldn’t want to say how many there are, or the types, at this time. The key is that the card will be secure,” he said.