What’s happening to the NID program?

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On a recent trip up Poreporena Freeway just before another one of those annoying safety sticker road blocks, we came across that had the actual poster ripped apart most likely by wind.  The poster, as some of you may know, was about the National Identity program that was launched last year and came under the National Planning and the National Statistical Office.

This time going up, the poster was no longer there and this got us to think about the actual program itself or more specifically the operation of it.  This is because late last year there was very little in the media about the current roll out of the program and whether it is on course to register the 8 million or so people and have each of them issued with an ID card.

As you can expect a lot of money had been injected into this program and if we can recall correctly a building was designated or shall we say constructed purposely for the operation of this program.

According to the National Statistical Office website, the NID System was to be a

“…simple, secure and unified system of registration of all citizens. It will be done on a centralised, linked database system between the provinces and nationally and administered by the Civil &Identity Registry Office. Once registered, all citizens will be issued a Birth Certificate. Citizens aged 18 and above will be issued identification cards containing basic key information like a photo and fingerprint scan for enhanced identification purpose.

To date, we have not seen the issuance of those NID cards and it is unknown at this stage whether any such cards have been issued.  What we do know is that a significant amount of people have completed the prescribed forms and lodged for processing.

The NSO website further went on to say that the NID system was essential for PNG because it would:

  • Prevent people from pretending to be someone they are not;
  • Security of citizen information;
  • Protection of citizen’s privacy;
  • Services provided rightfully to our citizens.
  • Improved service delivery based on reliable and timely data; and Single unified database for use by other key/end user agencies, thus greatly saving time and money and reducing duplication.

And the benefits for the individual:

  • No one can steal your identity (identity theft);
  • People will be able to trust and verify that you are the person whom you say you are;
  • Easier identification for employment, opening bank accounts, travel and accessing financial transactions and other government benefits or private sector applications.

And the benefits for the Government:

  • Identify eligible voters during elections;
  • Proper allocation of budgetary and resource support; and
  • Design its development policies, as well as plan and monitor other initiatives and projects using evidence-based statistics.

And for Businesses:

  • Secure and safer financial transactions between businesses and individuals.

As you can see, the benefits are very reasonable and certainly much more helpful for the future.  What is of concern though is the uncertainty over the progress of this system.  If there hasn’t been any progress, how much has it cost taxpayers for something that’s promised to be beneficial but yet to deliver anything tangible?

With the 2017 elections around the corner, such a program would certainly have contributed to the organisation of the polls.  As most of you would know, election time is chaotic.  Names of countries and even vehicles happen to be on the common roll.  And ironically, the program that is expected to be beneficial to the electoral commission, this organisation is not a direct participating entity.

The next time you apply for a birth certificate with the civil registry and they request that you provide or get registered through the NID system, you know you’re in for a long ride to get a document that can be processed and issued in minutes.  That’s the very problem the NID is intended to solve.

Going in circles?  Looks like it.

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