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Stakeholders allege favoritism in bidding process for Sri Lanka digital ID project

Stakeholders allege favoritism in bidding process for Sri Lanka digital ID project

Some Sri Lankan stakeholders, including lawmakers, have questioned decisions around the tender process for the country’s upcoming biometric digital ID project, with claims that the process is being tailored to favor particular bidders.

One Sri Lankan media outlet, The Leader, quotes the founder of the National People’s Power alliance (NPP), Anura Kumara Dissanayake, as charging during a recent parliamentary outing that an extension of the tender deadline may have been to the advantage of one of the bidding companies.

Dissanayake also raised issues of data privacy involving Security Printers Company, one of those said to have submitted a tender file for the contract, the report notes. He was apparently referring to Madras Security Printers Company, which has previously been contracted by Sri Lanka’s government.

The outlet notes however that the allegations from the lawmaker were brushed aside by State Minister Kanaka Herath who insisted that no bidder is being favoured, and that guidelines for data protection are well spelt out in the bid document.

This comes as the outlet insinuated in another report, citing government sources, that some officials of an unnamed diplomatic mission in the capital Colombo were pressuring government officials to influence the digital ID contract bidding process.

Early this month, India made an advance payment of around $5.4 million for the contract. It is supporting four out of the seven components of the project, according to a report by local outlet The Sunday Morning.

The bidding process has been closed and the files are under scrutiny, with the winner expected to be unveiled by the end of this year after vetting by cabinet. India and Sri Lanka had earlier agreed that only a company from the former should be awarded the contract.

Experts estimate the digital ID system, which has already seen the implementation of a Proof-of-Concept based on MOSIP, could go live in the next two and half years.

Importance of Sri Lanka digital ID system

Meanwhile, Dasun Hegoda, a software architect working for the Information and Communications Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka, a policymaking body supporting the country’s digital transformation initiatives, emphasized the importance of the digital ID project in an outing for KuppingerCole in May.

He said the digital ID system being planned for the country will leverage the capacity of a legacy ID system which has been in existence since 1971.

He said unlike the traditional ID system, which has many limitations such as requiring persons to be physically present for authentication, the digital ID era will make things easier for citizens in terms of how they have access to public and private sector services.

Hegoda underlined the fact that it will be a biometric ID system that will include the capture of face, iris and fingerprint biometrics. The data will be used for checks during authentication and digital KYC.

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