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Sri Lanka and Croatia each working towards biometric digital ID cards launch, Indonesia weighs benefits options


biometrics and digital identity in developing nations

Sri Lanka is planning to launch a biometrics-backed Digital Identity Card to support digital access to a range of government services, the country’s Daily News reports.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa spoke to the Department of Registration of Persons, Public Administration Ministry, Defence Ministry, Department of Emigration and Immigration, and Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) about the project in a recent meeting, according to the report. He is reported to have given instructions to speed the new credential’s introduction.

Biometric and other details from the card will be used for passport and driving license issuance, pension and benefits disbursement, tax payments and voting.

The development of the cards is being carried out by an expert panel, the Information and Communication Technology Agency and a Presidential Task Force, according to the Daily News.

Sri Lanka began issuing National Identity Card in 1973, but the paper document includes limited information on the bearer. Rajapaksa was a proponent of the digital identity card program as Secretary of Defense and the program was initially launched in 2012. The government had hoped to complete biometric fingerprint enrollment by mid-2017. The country is also planning to introduce biometrics for border control.

Croatia updates ID card rule to include biometrics

Croatia’s government is fast-tracking amendments to its Law on Identification Cards to make the credential compliant with the European Union’s directives mandating fingerprint and photo data, along with other changes, The Voice of Croatia reports.

The appearance of the card’s front is also changing, to include Croatia’s two-letter country indication “HR” within the blue square and 12 yellow stars that symbolizes the EU.

The amendments also lay the legal groundwork for an eventual approval of digital versions of the electronic identity cards to be stored on mobile devices, enabling access to digital services and e-signing of official documents.

The new regional ID card rules were approved a year ago by the EU Council, and require biometric elements to be stored in an electronic chip to facilitate border control processes. They became operational on August 1, 2019, and apply to all member states from August 2, 2021.

Indonesia trials replacement of benefits cards with biometrics

The National Team for Accelerated Poverty Reduction (TNP2K) of the Indonesian government has announced that a trial last year of facial recognition to improve the reach and efficiency of aid distribution systems had an average success rate of 85.2 percent, according to the Jakarta Post.

Biometric data for the system to perform matches against is obtained from the e-identification card (e-KTP) database operated by the Home Ministry.

Trials were conducted in three regions in partnership with e-wallet platform LinkAja, with beneficiaries performing biometric face scans at designated merchants to access household gas and electricity subsidies, and staple food assistance.

The previous social assistance systems have mostly been based on cards linked to recipients’ bank accounts, and the government is looking to improve efficiency in terms of both time and cost. A TNP2K representative said in a webinar that people reported difficulty keeping track of their cards and PIN codes, and partnering with fintech service providers allows the government to avoid their need without requiring smartphone ownership.

Another government representative on the webinar, however, noted that the country’s digital infrastructure is out of date, and will not support a database of every citizen’s biometrics. Internet penetration in Indonesia remains low, also, as does digital literacy, posing a potential challenge for new, fintech-based systems.

The government was reported earlier this year to be considering enacting a new data protection bill.

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