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Sri Lanka seals deal with India for national digital ID support, opposition MP concerned


Biometrics and digital ID

The implementation of Sri Lanka’s Unique Digital Identity program, dubbed SL-UDI, is set to advance with grant assistance expected from the government of India as part of a series of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) signed between both parties recently, reports NDTV.

The digital ID project is one of six areas that will benefit from India’s financial and material intervention, but an opposition lawmaker has picked holes in the entente saying it looks like Sri Lanka selling away its sovereignty to the regional giant.

The MoU on the digital ID project was announced back in February.

Per the NDTV report, the deal which was sealed by the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs and his Indian counterpart, also includes other aspects of technological development in Sri Lanka such as the setting up of a Maritime Rescue Coordination Center and the building of state-of-the-art computer laboratories with smart boards and customized curriculum software in over 200 schools.

According to the agreement, India will provide the sum of $6 million for the building of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center, while the sum of Rs 300 million (approximately US$3.9 million) will be granted for the digital identity scheme.

The MoUs are another dimension of the constant support given to Sri Lanka by India to enable the former advance its development objectives and enable it deal with some of its economic woes triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, the report adds.

However, while the government in Colombo sees the MoUs as a right step in the right direction, not all politicians see it that way.

A report by Sri Lanka Guardian quotes Harin Fernando, an opposition lawmaker from Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), as saying the grant from India to support the SL-UDI could allow the country access to the data of Sri Lankans, raising privacy and security issues. He also criticized the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center project saying it will instead threaten the Sri Lanka’s maritime security.

Fernando has also asked similar questions about a deal between Sri Lanka and a United Arab Emirates company that will see the latter supply crude oil to the former on a long-term basis.

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