The Jamaican Government has expressed its desire to fast-track the creation and implementation of a national identification system (NIDS) to help it with its aid and benefit distribution in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world.
In a digital press conference Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that it was clear that it would have been easier for the Government to provide individual aid and benefits to Jamaicans had it already implemented a NIDS prior to the pandemic.
“Now is the time when we really need to have the system and we are going to move as quickly as possible within the boundaries of the law and the constitution to ensure that every citizen of Jamaica has a unique identifier that will be able to ensure that whatever benefit comes from the Government will go directly to them,” he said.
The system aims to be similar to others found throughout the world — the largest of which is the Aadhaar program in India –, providing each citizen with a unique national identification number (NIN) for life that can be used alongside a card or uploaded onto smartphones. The government is also exploring the use of biometric scans — either fingerprint or retina — as a means of authorization.
However, as has been the case with similar systems elsewhere, this proposal has met with criticism and opposition over concerns that individual’s constitutional rights would be violated.
Holness addressed the concerns, saying in his press conference that “[t]he Government is not your enemy; we are here to help and we want to know every single Jamaican.”
The Government also indicated that the NIDS would help some professions that are, under the current system, less formally integrated into Jamaica’s economy, such as taxi drivers and bartenders.
“We are opening the door if they become formalised, but if they don’t, it’s going to be very difficult to take up taxpayers’ resources which are formally placed in the system and prioritise those who are not formally in the system versus those who have taken the time to register,” said Holness.
Holness maintains that the NIDS will become Jamaican’s main source of identity verification and will streamline and improve the governance of social, economic and security programs.
Source: Jamaica Observer
March 31, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis