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South Africa to add biometrics to new driving license cards, maintains plan for mDLs

South Africa to add biometrics to new driving license cards, maintains plan for mDLs

The government of South Africa is planning the launch of new driver’s license cards that will have enhanced security features including biometrics to combat fraud at Driving License Testing Centers.

This is according to a recent announcement by the country’s Transport Department, reports Business Tech.

The cards will be introduced before March 31, 2024, the outlet notes, adding that it will be designed and aligned with the latest technology in the domain such as linking the license card to a smart card system. Officials said in January that the security features will meet ISO/IEC 18013 specifications for driver’s licenses.

The plan for the new licence, according to government, is part of efforts to resolve the current challenges with the license production system which has faced recurrent printing machine failures. Such failures lead to huge backlogs of unprinted license cards, as was the case recently when a breakdown led to the non-issuance of about 350,000 cards.

South Africa currently has one machine for printing license cards and it has been in use since 1998.

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said recently, as quoted by tech outlet MyBroadband, that the constant breakdown of the machine was due to its obsolete nature and the long period periods of its use. She said although those breakdowns result in huge backlogs, the Transport Department is able to clear them as soon as the issues are fixed.

Chikunga also emphasized the need to strengthen security with the new cards, saying they are seeking to link up the National Traffic Information System with the database of the Department of Home Affairs, for biometric verification and authentication for online booking.

Per the new plan, the current license cards will gradually phase out and the machine used for printing them will be shut down, to give way to an entirely new system.

Also, the Transport Department has reiterated its willingness to go ahead with the launch of mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs).

Business Tech notes that the plan, which was first unveiled by former Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, will be rolled out over the next three years.

Once the mDL system goes live, automobile users will have the option of owning both the physical license and the digital version.

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