SA’s smart ID card revived

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The smart ID card project, which will be piloted by the Department of Home Affairs, will be rolled out in the 2012/13 financial year.

Home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma made the announcement during her budget vote speech yesterday.
“Last year, we committed to piloting the smart card. In this regard, we are pleased to inform… that this has been done.”

The minister further said the pilot will be run in this financial year with rollout scheduled for the 2012/13 financial year.
“The full spectrum of identity management goes beyond mere issuance of secure documents; it encompasses the safe maintenance and archiving of biometric and demographic records of citizens and persons who have been permitted to reside in SA,” said Dlamini-Zuma.

The smart ID card project will replace the traditional green ID books for South African citizens. The smart cards will have embedded microchips, which can be used to secure state pension payouts. Additional uses are being considered.

Dlamini-Zuma cancelled the project in March last year, saying her department ran out of money after it used the R114 million allocated for the project “for other things”.

The project was originally supposed to be piloted at the end of 2008, using pensioners as the sample group, but this did not happen.

The contract was sent out for tender, but was not awarded as the entire project was put on hold in 2009. The DHA says this is because of the Who Am I Online (WAIO) delay, since the smart card project needed all the new systems to be in place first before it could be worked on.

WAIO will see the overhaul of the department’s systems. The project aims to replace outdated and obsolete legacy systems.

Dlamini-Zuma subsequently said scrapping the project tender yielded an unexpected benefit by giving the department time to develop the infrastructure needed to deploy the project.
“Even if the tender had been awarded and we had gone ahead to develop the smart ID card, we would have run into problems with it as the infrastructure still has to be developed.”
“Now that the Who Am I Online contract issues have been resolved, we will, as part of our programme of action for this financial year, roll out the live capture for IDs and passports, which will greatly enhance efficiency, security and service delivery,” said the minister.

She also said the department will develop and implement an integrated system of both the immigration and civic systems.
“This will include a complete overhaul of the national population register and will be a collaborative effort with SARS [SA Revenue Services], GPW, and the Department of Finance.”

In aid of immigration, which is the department’s current focus, it will enhance its National Immigration Information System, which is used to register asylum seekers and refugees.

The minister said the department would, as part of government’s New Growth Path, over the next three years, work with other departments and economic sectors to proactively attract critical skills while producing its own.

She added that these critical skills will include ICT specialists and engineers.