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Jamaican PM’s office says national digital ID coming in Q1 of this year

Jamaican PM’s office says national digital ID coming in Q1 of this year

The Jamaican government has announced its intention to complete phase one of the National Identification System (NIDS) enrolment and ID-card issuing process during the 2024/25 financial year, and comments from the Prime Minister’s office suggest the rollout could come in the first quarter.

A report from Jamaica Observer says details on the program are outlined in the 2024/25 Estimates of Expenditure, recently tabled in the House of Representatives by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Nigel Clarke. NIDS aims to provide a comprehensive, secure database for storing the personal information of citizens and non-native residents of Jamaica with systems to support identity verification and authentication. It will run through the $1.3-billion allocation for the National Identification for Economic Growth project, funded by the government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

During the same time period, the government is aiming to launch the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) eWallet and digital birth certificate, continue digitizing civil records, amp up its communication strategy on NIDS, and finish the framework and infrastructure needed to facilitate authentication of identity information by accredited third parties. The completed framework will see the RGD transition to the National Identification and Registration Authority.

The National Identification for Economic Growth project has already yielded results, including the enactment of the National Identification and Registration Act (NIRA) and the drafting of NIRA regulations. However, previous statements from the government hinting at a launch in 2023 suggest NIDS may be running a few months behind schedule. The project is slated to run until February 2026.

Data Protection Act is foundational to NIDS 

Jamaica’s ongoing identity problems are familiar from many other nations: a mess of systems issuing different numbers, with interconnectivity hampered by legal and logistical technicalities. Hopes are that the national digital ID system will improve access to government services such as the National Insurance Scheme, the National Health Fund, and welfare.

The implementation of NIDS hinges on the Data Protection Act (DPA), which came into effect on December 1, 2023. The law ensures individuals are notified of requests to access their NIDS information. Under the DPA, any public authorities, financial and educational institutions, and health and security-services providers classified as data controllers must register with the Office of the Information Commissioner and pay a yearly fee They must also appoint an official to oversee compliance.

Enrollment in NIDS is voluntary. The government says the program is a unique, reliable, and secure way of verifying an individual’s identity that will establish a reliable database of all Jamaican citizens and issue registrants a unique, lifelong national identification number; options floated to date have included mobile digital ID and biometric fingerprint or eye scans. The program is expected to have impacts on immigration, border-control management, public safety, and national security.

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