South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that his cabinet has officially approved the country’s Official Identity Management Policy and it will now move into the public comment phase of development.
According to a press briefing held late last week by South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, the policy proposes to change a number of existing legislative frameworks, including the Identification Act and Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act, to bring them more in line with the Constitution and the Protection of Personal Information Act.
“It also proposes the integration of the national population register to enable a single view of a person with features to interface with other government and private sector identity management systems,” said Mthembu. “It will integrate the current systems into a biometric-enabled National Identity System.”
Mthembu went on to explain that the proposed population register will “form the basis of an official e-identity which will serve as the backbone of state and private digital platforms.”
South Africa has been pursuing a national digital identity program for years now, with efforts dating as far back as 2013, when the government introduced its SmartID cards as a replacement for the more vulnerable green ID book it was using until that point. The SmartID cards came equipped with security features that were considered modern at the time, such as holograms and laser engravings, and were intended as a tool in the fight against rampant identity theft in the country.
The evolution of the country’s ID system continued when in June of 2019 when it was announced by International Relations and Cooperation minister Naledi Pandor that the government was in the process of working on a new ID system that would employ biometric technologies.
“The new national identity system South Africa seeks to build will serve as a master source for civics and immigration management,” said Naledi. “The modernisation of South Africa’s Home Affairs, when fully and successfully implemented, will re-engineer and automate most of the key processes of the department and yield a significantly enhanced national identification system, and a credible national population register.”
Some of the main elements of the new system that Pandor highlighted are the ability to keep records of individuals throughout their lifetimes, the consolidation of birth, marriage, and death records into one system, and the capture of the biometric data of individuals during the visa application process.
November 23, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis