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Newborns to get National Identification numbers later this year

Published:Wednesday | July 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Onika Miller
Raymond Pryce
Mikael Phillips

PERMANENT SECRETARY in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Onika Miller says the assignment of national identification numbers to newborns will begin by the third quarter of this year as the Government moves to seek funding for the US$20-million project which will ultimately assign a number to every Jamaican for identity purposes.

In a draft report submitted to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament, the OPM indicates that 78 per cent of the Jamaican population is expected to be registered on the National Identification System (NIDS) database by 2020.

The NIDS will provide a comprehensive and secure structure to capture and store civil and biometric information of citizens and persons ordinarily residing in Jamaica.

Member of the PAAC, Mikael Phillips, argued that the Government has taken a long time to roll out this project, noting that with delays come additional costs.

Committee chairman Edmund Bartlett said that the NIDS would serve as a critical tool for crime fighting in Jamaica, "because if you can't identify, then you can't locate."

still needs funding

Miller acknowledged that it had taken a considerable period of time to implement the NIDS. She told committee members that the Government was seeking to source US$500,000 to carry out a business process review and to conduct a strategic review of the civil registry as part of the overall project.

Miller said a framework of NIDS should be in place by November and a full roll-out of the system is targeted for the next five years.

Alison McLean, principal director for the Planning and Development Division in the OPM, said the Government will be using data from a number of sources such as Tax Administration Jamaica, the Ministry of Health and the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency as it seeks to create one platform.

"The idea is to create a platform which is accessible through some level of connectivity. It is not that we are going to be using their data to create a national identification system, the system will capture its own unique data set, but what will happen is that you will be able to crossmatch," McLean explained.

She noted that family members are going to be linked in the NIDS database.

is critical data safe?

Government lawmaker Raymond Pryce questioned whether the authorities were putting measures in place to safeguard critical data from identity theft when the NIDS is implemented.

"Are we contemplating that these treasured troves of information about people's identity bring into urgent clarity the matter of identity theft and related cybercrimes?" Pryce questioned.

He said identity theft at one time appeared to be an alien concept to Jamaicans, but has increasingly factored in crimes that affect the economy and Jamaicans individually.

In her response, Miller said security is at the core of the Government's strategy as it works toward setting up the NIDS.

"The issue of identity theft and cybercrime is something we are paying close attention to. Security is a central part of our planning and there is a considerable amount of vetting. That is also why the biometrics is something that we are looking at very carefully. We haven't taken a decision on which features specifically yet, but biometrics is an important part of the security of the system," she said.