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Sri Lanka to begin procuring digital ID equipment from India with Indian money

Sri Lanka to begin procuring digital ID equipment from India with Indian money
 

The Indo-Sri Lanka Joint Project Monitoring Committee (JPMC) has launched the procurement process for the Sri Lanka Unique Digital Identity Project (SL-UDI) after government ministers met with the Indian High Commissioner, report outlets including the Daily FT.

The scheme is expected to resemble India’s Aadhaar and run on MOSIP (Modular Open-Source Identification Platform), inspired by  Aadhaar.

“Major automated biometric systems” will be implemented under “the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka’s full supervision and consultation,” state media reports. Biographic and biometric information – facial, iris and fingerprint – will be collected in 2024 entered into a central system. A new card will be issued within 18 months.

Coverage states that this was the second meeting of the JPMC on this project as an extension of the MoU the two countries signed in March 2022, where the digital ID scheme was one of six areas to benefit from financial and material intervention.

An opposition politician raised concerns about whether identity information gathered would be visible to Indian authorities. It is believed only Indian firms will be eligible to apply, although U.S.-based IriTech has been involved in iris recognition pilots in the country.

Previous reporting stated Indian funding for the digital identity project to the tune of Rs 300 million (US$3.6 million). The latest reports state Rs 3 billion ($36.5 million), although this could be a mistake in converting Indian numbers into the Western system. Other reports seem to suggest the software will cost Rs 3 billion while the whole scheme will cost Rs 12 billion. MOSIP is free to use, but countries using it face implementation costs.

Tender documents do not yet appear to be available. Previous terms of reference for selecting a consultancy to prepare the software for the upcoming digital identity project, revealed details such as a plan to register 16.5 million people within two years across 1,600 centers and prepare for MOSIP integration.

Previous domestic efforts to launch biometric identity schemes in Sri Lanka have failed. The government sees the new scheme as a way to “enable dramatic leaps in service quality and massive efficiency gains for governments, as well as drive financial and social inclusion to a maximum extent by providing citizens access to citizen services and benefits of healthcare, education, and other government programs,” as per the previous tender documents.

The government has previously announced plans to develop a digital wallet alongside digital ID as certain payments become digitized. It has made progress in issuing digital birth certificates with the system ready to convert these into national IDs at the age of 15.

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