All Jamaicans to benefit from NIDS – PM
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said the National Identification System (NIDS) is for the benefit of all Jamaicans, noting that stronger laws and penalties are in place for the handling of personal information.
“It is important that we are able to identify all our citizens [in a way] that does not invade the privacy of the citizen. The privacy of the citizen is guaranteed by the State, and we have put in place all the laws,” the Prime Minister said.
“Recently, we put in place the Data Protection Act, which means that we have a Data Commissioner, which means that any firm that handles data for the citizen must register and follow certain specific laws, just as in the European Union, just as in here (the US) to protect your rights,” he said.
Holness was responding to questions during a hybrid meeting at the ‘Let’s Connect’ town hall in Washington DC on December 6, hosted by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks.
The new Data Protection legislation, which was passed in 2020, is poised to transform the way organisations manage personal data, including the collection, storage, utilisation, disclosure and disposal.
Under the new law, these organisations or individuals, defined as data controllers, are required to be registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC), effective December 1, and pay an annual fee.
They are also obligated to appoint a responsible individual, such as a Data Protection Officer (DPO), to oversee the controller’s compliance with the Act.
The Government has granted a six-month grace period for data controllers to register with the OIC.
The prime minister said the identification system will also facilitate easier digital transaction as well as place the government in a better position to provide critical services to Jamaicans.
“We need to know who you are to provide you with services, to plan for you. We get this all the time; we budget and then people turn up and say what about me? You didn’t remember me? And that’s the issue of PATH. There are many people out there who should be on PATH, but they are not,” he said.
Holness pointed out that under the Data Protection Act, entities that handle information must register with the OIC.
“We have put in place the Data Protection Act; there’s a Data Commissioner; every entity that handles your information in Jamaica is now in the process of registering with that Data Commissioner. There are laws and penalties for breaching the law regarding the privacy and security of your data. We have taken that very seriously,” Holness said.
For her part, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, said the identification system has been a service that the Jamaican people have been deprived of for far too long.
“I think somewhere along the way in the discourse, a lot of misinformation facilitated on social media developed fears that eclipsed the improvements in service delivery and the benefits of a national ID system. The reason that people want a social security number is because of the access to services that it gives you,” she stated.
She highlighted that the number of documents required to transact businesses will be significantly reduced with the rollout of the NIDS.
The NIDS will provide a comprehensive and secure structure to enable the capture and storage of personal identity information for citizens and persons ordinarily resident in Jamaica. It will become the primary source for identity assurance and verification and will result in improved governance and management of social, economic and security programmes.