An Opposition senator has been asked to partner with the Government in championing the roll out of the Multi-Purpose Identification Card (MP-ID) and to encourage her Opposition colleagues to get onboard.
During the ‘Questions for Oral Answers’ section of the sitting of the House of Assembly on November 23, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves made the request of Senator Shevern John, who had asked a question about the initiative which was first launched in St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2015.
“I am beseeching you to impress upon your colleagues who may have misgivings that this is an important foundation of the Digital Transformation process, and I am asking that you be my partner in championing this particular initiative, because Digital Transformation can not take place without it,” Gonsalves said.
Senator John’s questions related to the implementation of the MP-ID cards in schools; how much funding was allocated; how effective was the initiative in schools; and what is the status of the initiative in schools.
Gonsalves told the House that the 1100 MP-ID cards that had been issued to students are valid.
“They’re valid as identification, and the additional cards that were issued to other people than students who want to use them as
a second form of identification…the identification
is absolutely valid, valid and accepted as formal government-issued identification.”’
The Minister said the total cost of the MP-ID system across the OECS was US$3.1 million, of which SVG’s component was US$785,000.
The project aims to uniquely identify all Vincentians for easy online authentication in public and private sectors, not just students.
However, the project came to a halt in 2016 when Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace expressed his discomfort with the system, owing to fears of election-related fraud, and being unaware that it had been launched early in 2016.
Gonsalves said as a compromise, MP-IDs were issued to students only, and around 1100 students were enrolled, providing essential access to services for those lacking other forms of ID.
The Minister said like developed countries across the world, the MP-ID would have functioned in the same way as the Social Security number does in the United States, which people retain from birth to death and which is an easy way to identify a person when they go to banks, perform online services and in the public and private sectors.
Gonsalves disclosed that under the Caribbean Digital Transformation Project (CARDPT), US$2 million has been allocated for the implementation of a unique digital identification and citizen authentication system.
He said the legal, regulatory, and administrative tasks pertaining to the roll out have been completed, mainly during the MP-ID’s initial phase. Additionally,
a digital authentication layer connecting government services has been built in, integrating it with recognized forms of identification.
“If you want to update your passport for example, you’ll be able to do it online because your passport will be linked to this number and you will have the number and part of your login process will involved that number.”
He said that the next phase of the roll out will include the implementation of the upgraded civil registry and the unique identification system.
Gonsalves disclosed that the systems being tested are already in use or underway in several countries like Morocco, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Togo, Uganda, and Sri Lanka.
The aim of the pilot project is to assess its suitability for own situation here in SVG. He said the software is open-source, which means it can be easily adapted in keeping the country’s requirements.
The CARDPT is being funded by World Bank and the pilot roll out of the MP-ID should take place later this year.