Tue | Nov 21, 2017

Public-sector workers selected for NIDS trial

Published:Wednesday | November 15, 2017 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart, chief technical director, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the Office of the Prime Minister, examines the National Identification System (NIDS) document with Warren Vernon (right), project director of NIDS, and Charlton McFarlane, deputy CFO of the Registrar General’s Department, at a press conference on NIDS at Jamaica House yesterday.

Public-sector workers will become the guinea pigs of the National Identification System (NIDS) rollout as they have been selected for the pilot programme for the collection of biometric data to produce a unique identification number for all Jamaicans.

Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart, the woman who heads the NIDS secretariat in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), said that the programme will be rolled out in an organised way so as not to put the country in chaos.

Speaking at a press conference at Jamaica House yesterday, the morning after the Senate passed the bill with 168 amendments, she said that adoption of the law will not take place overnight.

"We deliberately considered using public sector employees for the pilot, and the reason is that public-sector employees are stationed islandwide. So it gives us a good feel of how to enrol people, islandwide. Public-sector employees are also a good reflection of our communities because we have different income groups within the public sector," stated Lynch-Stewart.

Continuing, she said that with a good pilot, they would be able to tweak and to fix proceeding to a national rollout. "So that is also why that sector was considered and chosen for the pilot," Lynch-Stewart said.

NIDS will start with a national identification number for all, and will evolve into a national identification card.

Both Lynch-Stewart and the rest of the Government's team at the press conference said that the single most important component of NIDS will be unique and accurate identity verification.

Robert Nesta Morgan, who heads the communication unit in the OPM, said NIDS will become the final tool that will identify an individual for all goods and services from the Government. Until then, a number of current identification platforms will run concurrently with NIDS.

Will NIDS squeeze out voter ID?

As the National Identification System (NIDS) becomes more accepted, other modes of identification will be phased out over time, said Robert Nesta Morgan, who heads the communication unit in the Office of the Prime Minister.

"One of the challenges that we face in Jamaica is that we have a multiplicity of identification documents, which are not identification documents. So your driver's licence is not an ID but a driver's licence. Your electoral ID is not an ID but an electoral ID.

"Your passport could be considered some sort of identification because it allows people in another jurisdiction to identify you because you are crossing their borders, but it's not an effective identification domestically because it comes at a cost, and not everybody within the society may be able to afford a passport," Morgan stated.

For now, the function of the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) will not be affected by NIDS. However, based on the evolution of NIDS, "Government policy is going to have to dictate," how, or whether, it is affected Morgan said. "The Electoral Office of Jamaica is a special creature; it's not like a driver's licence, NIS, TRN. It's a statutory provision in law determined by the Government," according to Morgan.

Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart said all countries with NIDS also have an electoral commission.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com