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Lessons in informing public about digital ID from Jamaica and Singapore

Lessons in informing public about digital ID from Jamaica and Singapore

Communication with the public about how digital ID programs work has been insufficient in some past instances, but a government explainer and an article in a news publication provide examples of how to engage with citizens. Jamaican officials have taken to the media to explain how the upcoming controversial biometric National Identification System (NIDS) works and Singaporean media outlines the passport process, revealing production has jumped from 2,000 a day in 2019 to 6,500 a day now.

Explaining how Jamaica’s biometric ID will subsume all ID

Minister Floyd Green, Minister without portfolio, Office of the Prime Minister and Matthew McNaughton, co-convener of the NIDs Focus Coalition, have taken to the Jamaica Observer to publish an explainer for the country’s new centralized, biometric ID scheme.

Biometric registration centers are opening, as the scheme prepares to launch.

The guide is on the technical side and may not clarify for many how the scheme actually works. NIDS is being built on a zero-trust basis, they note, and blockchain technology will secure the audit trails. “We are also working with international organisations to develop a more structured security protocol to meet global data privacy and security standards,” they write.

They outline how the new Data Protection Act will give entities two years to comply, and that it also covers third-party sharing and monitoring of data.

The article explains how the new ID will replace other IDs and numbers such as driving licenses, the TRN (taxation registration number) and even National Insurance Scheme Number. They do not mention voter ID.

The authors address concerns over police access to biometrics: “As it relates to law enforcement, there is an entirely different process where there has to be a court order for anyone to access the database.”

How one of the world’s best passports is produced

The Straits Times carries a guide to how Singapore’s biometric passport is produced, as demand soars. Output is now at 6,500 a day, up from 2,000 in pre-COVID 2019. Singaporeans have visa-free access to 192 destinations.

The passports contain a large number of security features including laser engraving on the polycarbonate biodata page, and are now valid for 10 years. Each finished credential is checked by hand before being dispatched and the biometric chip with facial and fingerprint data is checked.

Any Singaporeans who have not submitted biometrics in advance can supply them via Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) machines when they collect the passports.

The country is trialing biometric road border crossings with scanners that allow passengers to remain in their cars and the country’s digital identity scheme, Singpass, has also added new features and saves around US$36 in onboarding costs.

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