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GijimaAst claims 'Who am I' on track

Listed IT company GijimaAst will shortly begin the pilot phase of the Department of Home Affairs’ controversial multi-billion rand ”Who am I” identity management project.
"Who am I" aims to replace all manual identity management processes with online and real-time transactions. A consortium, headed by GijimaAst, was awarded the contract for the project in 2007, ITWeb reports.

GijimaAst group FD Carlos Ferreira said the scoping exercise and back-office systems had been put into place. The project has been hampered by shifting deadlines, but he says "there hasn't been a delay overall" and everything is on track.

In April, GijimaAst said the first part of the Home Affairs "Who am I (I am I said)" online project would be completed by the end of the month. "We have actually given them [Home Affairs] a commitment that we will deliver the application on the 29th [of April]," said GijimaAst CEO Jonas Bogoshi at the time.

The initial deadline set for the roll-out of the project was the end of March. By that date, the system was supposed to have been available in all Home Affairs offices,
mobile units and selected hospitals, morgues, post offices and chain stores.

Ready for 2010

Ferreira says the next phase, the roll out of pilot sites, will be under way as soon as the company and department agree on the sites. These sites will be certain border posts, international immigration areas, as well as some consular offices overseas, he adds.

This phase will
continue until around March or April next year, when work will freeze so that the implementation of the new system does not affect tourists coming in for the 2010 FIFA soccer games, Ferreira adds.

"Initially, the focus will be on movement control of tourists coming into the country and moving around SA," he says. The country expects about 500 000 visitors for the games.

The focus for now will be on key immigration systems, such as visas, permits and movement control. So, for the time being, the visa application process for foreigners will be simplified. Work on the civic services application will follow after the tournament. "Government has made certain commitments to Fifa... so far we are on track with that," says Ferreira.

After the tournament, the rest of the system will be implemented, with an expected completion date of 2012, Ferreira adds. GijimaAst will continue to be involved with the project on a maintenance basis, he notes.

Despite reports that the budget for the project has escalated to R4 billion, Ferreira says it is actually under R2.5 billion. This, he explains, is because government bears the risk of fluctuations for imported hardware. About R1 billion will be spent on hardware such as kiosks.

Siobhan McCarthy, spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs, says it is looking at piloting at least seven sites in preparation for 2010. The sites will be up and running by year-end and will include ports of entry and some South African missions overseas. After the World Cup, the citizen aspect of the project will be rolled out.

Simplified process

"Who am I" will provide branch offices and field teams with access to two core systems. The national population register (NPR) and the Home Affairs National Information System (Hanis) are currently only accessible to officials at the DHA's Waltloo head office, resulting in delays of urgent documentation for at least a week.

The NPR is a mainframe database containing the identity records of every living South African citizen, resident and deported illegal immigrant, while the Hanis automated fingerprint identification system contains their photographs and fingerprints. Hanis is used to verify identity and acts as a "guard dog" for the national population register.

With the application, DHA officials, border guards and immigration officers countrywide will be able to check identities against Hanis. The positive biometric verification at DHA offices around the country will allow temporary identity documents to be issued immediately.

Global ambitions

GijimaAst is also in talks with other developing countries to deploy similar systems and has already submitted two tender bids to unnamed governments for a smaller project, says Ferreira.

He adds that these kinds of projects often attract donor funding as they work to the benefit of a country's citizens.

GijimaAst will initially target SA's neighbours, but sees a demand for the system in all developing countries, such as the Middle East.



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