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Pakistan’s digital ID authority drops paper files with new operations system

Pakistan’s digital ID authority drops paper files with new operations system

“We are heading towards becoming a non-bureaucratic organization,” announces Tariq Malik, chairman of the National Database and Registration Authority of Pakistan (NADRA) in his latest video news update. A bold statement from someone running a bureaucracy.

This will happen when “we listen to real [time] data” and by connecting all of NADRA’s centers to this data, says Malik. The agency has Pakistan’s largest DVB-RCS satellite link system. It is a large organization with 755 offices for handling civil registration and digital identity requests, of which 25 are off-grid and solar-powered. 734 offices are operational as Malik records his message.

There are a further 263 mobile units in operation, which are tracked in real-time and displayed on a map in the new operations room. Data coming in also show how many cards a van is issuing when stationary. The chairman notes that 196 are operating as he speaks.

Bringing all the data together into a central dashboard shows that when the offices are connected, they can serve, on average, 100,000 people per day with each application taking on average 5 minutes 54 seconds. The real-time data even displays which members of staff are working the fastest (or possibly have the simplest cases).

At the point of making the video we learn that the real-time data reveals Shoaib Bin Sabir, working on Egerton Road in Lahore, is working fastest. A colleague in Peshawar has served 52 people at the Razzar office. Overseas offices are also connected to the feeds. Muhammad Majid in Dubai has served 34 people.

High-performing officers are promoted to foreign postings.

On the flipside, real time data shows that as Malik records, there is a long queue at the Shahgarh office in Quetta, prompting the opening of the Quetta NADRA Registration Center. CCTV cameras in the offices give a sense of how busy each center is and lead to checks on equipment performance. A screen behind Malik suggests there are 953 people queuing for digital ID services across the country as he records.

Other screens in the operation room video wall show what equipment is not functioning or is offline. Another keeps track of COVID-19 vaccination certificates being issued.

The performance data are intended to be available to the public, according to previous statements from Malik.

“The purpose was to show you that we do not manage NADRA through files,” concludes the chairman, “but we are fulfilling our responsibility in such a way that real [time] data is forcing us toward real decisions in real time and we are taking corrective actions.”

The full operations room tour follows Malik’s previous address on major updates to the complaints procedures which brought in the target to address grievances in 48 hours. This was being achieved 92 percent of the time when announced.

Malik returned to lead NADRA last year following his post as chief technical advisor to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He also worked at the World Bank’s ID4D initiative.

A month ago NADRA announced that more than 8.2 million Pakistanis abroad have registered with the agency. The agency is also going to bring in twice-yearly biometric checks on Islamabad-linked pensioners as a proof of life for payments.

Since Malik’s return, NADRA has also launched the Pak Identity mobile app, which is claimed to be the first to use contactless biometrics on mobile devices to enroll individuals into a national ID system. Eighty-eight new registration centers were recently added.

However, there were allegations in November 2021 that NADRA’s biometric database had been hacked, which the agency rejected.

There has also been a shift to fingerprint liveness detection to combat the persistent use of stolen fingerprints for keeping hundreds of thousands of fraudulent SIM cards operational.

Most recently, in late March, four fraudsters in a village of Kasur City were caught after taking women’s national ID cards and charging them Rs2,000 (US$11) to be biometrically registered on the Ehsaas Kafaalat plus a further Rs6,000, reports Dawn. The cash transfer welfare programme for poor women pays out Rs2,000 a month.

The fraudsters were also acquiring SIM cards through biometric verification of the women and biometric devices were found. A fifth fraudster managed to escape.

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