NIDS concerns are still valid!

Thursday, March 08, 2018

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Dear Editor,

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said recently that regardless of concerns over the national identification system (NIDS), it is a step in the right direction to move the country into the digital age. This might be so, but the concerns cannot be ignored, otherwise we miss the real benefits of a digitised system.

We have noticed a ramped-up public relations campaign about NIDS — an attempt to sway public opinion ahead of the January 2019 scheduled roll-out. Although the basic concept of a national ID is a good one, the new system proposed will be costly, funded from parts of an external loan of US$68 million from the Inter-American Development Bank, a loan which must be repaid.

Most people don't realise that NIDS has to be renewed every few years; the first entry will be free, but will individuals have to bear cost of renewal (or replacement)?

Any legitimate national ID can be digitised. As I've suggested, a better option would be to consider enhancing the taxpayer registration system (TRN) as the key identifying link to other national photo IDs such as passport, driver's licence, and the NIDS should become optional, like the others. Everyone can be identifiable. The TRN is already linked to the driver's licence, and TRN can be linked to birth and death registration, as well as every passport application.

We also have to consider the elderly, sick, poor and those without any fixed address, and the logistics trying to force these people into acquiring/renewing their NIDS entry. A national ID system should not necessarily mean a new system in the age of digitisation; we should firstly look at cost-effective ways to enhance what we already have.

It is understood that facial image, fingerprints (10), eye colour, and signature will be required for the NIDS. Since most citizens are neither threats nor security risks, I argue that biometrics data should be restricted to police services when processing suspects and conducting arrests. Other data such as race, religion, profession, education, blood type will be optional, we hear, but since much of this data will be changing constantly, it is best collected during a national census, in which names are not linked and we do not compromise personal information and confidentiality. I don't understand how partial (optional) data will be of any benefit to the Planning Institute of Jamaica.

In addition, I am sure the diaspora transacting business in Jamaica will also need to have a NIDS entry as well as the TRN, in addition to a Global Immigration Card, which was announced last year to facilitate easier entry for the diaspora who travel with foreign passports. It is my view there will be too many IDs to manage and maintain. We should be moving towards simplicity and efficiency as we embrace digitisation.

P Chin

chin_p@yahoo.com

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