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Ambitious projects, global support transform ID management in the Maldives

Ambitious projects, global support transform ID management in the Maldives
 

The Maldives has started on an ambitious journey to transform its identity management systems by incorporating digital technologies to improve the efficiency, security, and accessibility of its citizens. The modernization efforts spearheaded by the Maldivian Government and the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) involve upgrading the civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system, improving national identity management, and rolling out the eFaas digital ID platform. Introducing biometric authentication, mobile ID applications, and smart ID cards is part of a larger strategy that seeks to decentralize services and develop a digital economy backed by initiatives such as the Digital Maldives for Adaptation, Decentralization, and Diversification (DMADD) Project. These advancements are aimed at streamlining service delivery, enhancing data governance, and creating a more resilient and inclusive cyberspace for Maldivians.

Enhancing the CRVS system

The Maldives has struggled to establish efficient service delivery and development planning due to inadequate funding for civil registration and identity management systems, GHAI says. The government of Maldives is collaborating with GHAI to modernize and enhance its CRVS and national identity management systems. The first stage of this collaboration was a pilot project financed by GHAI aimed at upgrading hardware and software at the Department of National Registration (DNR), and procurement of biometric devices for national ID verification. The partnership has successfully attracted additional funds, political alliances, and substantial budget allocations to CRVS/ID systems, and supported the deployment of biometric verification technologies for secure and efficient identity management throughout the country.

Research insights

According to ESCAP research from 2019, the Maldives has emphasized the construction of a safe and effective digital identity management system. This approach is consistent with their objective of attaining complete civil registration and improving identity verification and authentication using digital ID systems.

According to the World Bank’s 2018 Findex Survey, adults in the Maldives are increasingly utilizing digital payment systems by mobile phones, the internet, and bank accounts. These services provide financial inclusion options, particularly for people without regular bank accounts. The poll focuses on how digital financial services might help development, with examples from other nations demonstrating significant benefits for women and low-income households.

Modernization of civil registration and identity management systems

The Maldives is receiving a GHAI-funded pilot project aimed at modernizing the country’s CRVS and identity management systems. This was just the start of an all-encompassing national upgrade in the Maldives, and involved upgrading DNR’s hardware as well as software in the first phase of the project which included procuring 210 fingerprint scanning devices for National ID verification procedures.

The project focused on integrating previously siloed population data systems, which had been a significant hurdle in inefficient service delivery and development planning. The government believes that combining the divergent databases into one manageable system will facilitate better resource allocation across various government sectors.

The initiative also included the creation of a new group of civil registrars at a sub-national level. Thus, this action assisted in decentralizing services for CRVS and ID making them more convenient to inhabitants from all regions in Maldives. The project, through assigning civil registrars on every habited island, allowed citizens to document vital events and transact with their national identity locally thereby improving service delivery and minimizing administrative delays.

The eFaas digital ID platform

The Maldivian government established the eFaas digital ID platform in 2012 as a way to improve access to government services. This platform has several significant features, such as biometric verification using selfies, passwordless login, and better privacy measures. The program enables users to execute a variety of family, health, and business transactions without requiring actual identity documents. The site shares data only with users’ authorization, to help preserve their privacy.

Since its inception, eFaas has made great progress in user adoption and functionality. For example, within hours of its recent public preview, the app has received over 4,000 face authentication logins, indicating substantial public involvement. The government understands eFaas as a key component in its effort to digitize the nation, making government services more accessible and efficient. Despite its capabilities, eFaas did not assist with voter registration during the last presidential election.

Recent developments in national ID

The Maldives government’s work to improve digital identity management and biometric data collection are ongoing. The Maldivian Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology through its department of National Center for Information and Technology (NCIT) announced in December 2022 that it has embraced digital ID cards. The identity cards have strong security measures that will allow citizens to access government services more easily through eFaas authentication. Velana Airport now accepts digital identification cards for domestic flights, the Maldives Financial Review reports, thus making travel easier for customers who may forget their physical identification documents.

The Maldives has also recently initiated a wide-ranging biometric data collection for migrant workers. This plan is intended to correct issues with identification and national security concerns as mentioned by the Minister for Homeland Security Ali Ihusan. During the next three years, fingerprints and facial photographs will be collected through this system.

The Department of National Registration (DNR) granted a contract to Encrea Pvt Ltd to redesign the National Identity Card last year. This new design, triggered by a cabinet decision, will include a smart ID card with increased security features. The makeover represents a considerable change from the current ID card, which has been in use since 1984.

Maldives sees rapid adoption of digital ID system

According to the Atoll Times, the National Centre for Information Technology (NCIT) saw more than 50,000 users adopt the digital identity system in the first three months of its trial, which started in May, 2023. The digital ID is backed by a $10 million grant from the World Bank and enables people to access various government services. It has been used almost 200,000 times with scans for logging into 68 portals and applications as well as domestic flights and health services being supported through this platform. Government engagement is more streamlined to merging vital documents such as driving licenses, and marriage certificates utilizing digital ID.

Future digital advancements

More digitalization is coming to the Maldives. The Digital Maldives for Adaptation, Decentralization, and Diversification (DMADD) Project has been established with a World Bank grant. The project is under the leadership of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, and Technology project focuses on four key areas: broadband connectivity, modernization of the national digital ID system, enhancing digital infrastructure and data governance strengthening as well as digital technologies support for climate resilience.

The modernized national ID system will allow secure digital identity mechanisms thus enabling trusted online transactions while improving service delivery across finance, health, social protection sectors, etc. Furthermore, there are efforts to build an advanced climate data platform that will inform data-based planning and policy-making regarding climate adaptation. By utilizing digital identity and promoting internet access improvement, the Maldives hopes to become a more digitally diversified country.

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