Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, has charged the relevant technocrats and stakeholder agencies to ensure that the National Identification System (NIDS) becomes a reality this year, the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence.
Remarks delivered by Minister with responsibility for Information, Hon. Sandrea Falconer, on Wednesday March 28 opening ceremony of a three-day NIDS seminar at the Terra Nova Hotel, Kingston, the Prime Minister emphasised the importance of a secure centralised identification system.
“The absence of a central identification system, and not having the right piece of identification, often leads to all kinds of frustrating experiences for our citizens,especially for the poor. Whether it is in applying for a job, opening a bank account, accessing services, including the services of government, or even registering for an educational opportunity,” she observed.
The Prime Minister lamented that despite the fact that the country is able to produce documents that have a high degree of security and integrity, and are acceptable the world over and by the international partners, “Jamaica does not have a central national database with the accompanying systems for verification and authentication.”
She noted that even with the voter identification, which for many Jamaicans “is the only piece of identification that they have,” there are deficiencies. “I know that even with my voter identification, there are issues, and we have to commend the EOJ (Electoral Office of Jamaica) for all the work that they have done.”
The NIDS, the Prime Minister stated, is a clear attempt to put right such frustrating experiences. “One unique and secure ID will also reduce the risk of identity theft. Our fingerprints and other biometric data are unique to us,” she pointed out.
Placing the proposed identification system within the context of national development, she stated that it will ensure that more citizens have easier access to the services of the state, and by extension increased opportunities, which will better enable them to play a role in the development process.
“We must make it easier for citizens to apply for and renew such facilities as drivers’ licences and filing of income and other tax returns. We must also ensure that the transactions our citizens conduct, are secure,” she stated.
She said that care should be taken in the search for an effective and efficient system of national identification to ensure that it is secure, does not compromise matters of national security, or the privacy rights of individuals, or is above what Jamaicans can afford.
Welcoming the seminar as a step in efforts to “fast-track the implementation of the NIDS” the Prime Minister, noted that since the formal launch of the initiative in 2011, much important work has taken place.
She noted the intention of the seminar to explore the utilisation of digital technology to capture data so that the individual’s identity can be undisputed, and the threat of identity theft eliminated.
The NIDS is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to the tune of US$670,000 through a loan which was approved in September last year.
Local stakeholders in the promulgation and implementation of the system include the Registrar General’s Department, the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency, the Electoral Office of Jamaica, Fiscal Services Limited, the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Health.
The project is being implemented through the National Registration Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister.