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Longer wait for digital ID

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By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent

The lacunae in laws governing digital verticals and databases in Sri Lanka will result in a further delay in issuing of digital identity cards.

Minister of Telecommunication, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment Harin Fernando told Parliament on Wednesday issuance of digital identity cards to replace the conventional National Identity Cards was a key point mentioned in Budget 2016. 

Issuing of digital identity cards to replace the conventional National Identity Cards was a key point mentioned in Budget 2016. According to the Minister, the project received Cabinet approval with the purpose of remitting national social security benefits in a more efficient manner via the Ministry of Finance through a Household Transfer Management (HTM) system and as a project of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA). 

“There are several ways of providing digital identity to the people, and among them one is the issue of a physical card. Although it was proposed in the original plan to provide a physical card, after a number of steps were taken towards its procurement, a further review was made and the Cabinet of Ministers determined that as a special physical card was not essential its procurement be cancelled and that every citizen be issued with a digital identity instead of a card,” the Minister said. Furthermore, as an effective integrated approach towards the introduction of the National Digital Identity, discussions are being held with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Wayamba Development and Cultural Affairs and the Department of Registration of Persons, as a result which there is no rough design to be tabled at present.

“The identity card which was to be issued under the relevant project where the procurement was cancelled had identified ICTA as the Issuing Authority of the identity card. As per the new proposal, the issuing authority for the identity card with the digital identity will be the Commissioner General of the Department of Registration of Persons,” the Minister explained.

While the project has been stagnant for over two years, the overall estimate for the HTM system proposed by ICTA was Rs. 1,322.40 million for 2016, Rs. 2,365 million for 2017, and Rs. 2,000 million for 2018, totalling Rs. 8,000 million. 

“As the overall concept and the relevant procurement is being reviewed again, the estimated cost accordingly should be much less, but it is difficult to assess the accurate cost at this stage as the final technical proposal has not been approved. By which party will such a cost be borne? The procurement so far for HTM has been cancelled and the project is back in the planning stage. The cost of the HTM project will be borne by the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka under its Digitisation of the Economy program. The financial allocation by the Ministry of Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure for the HTM project of ICTA is Rs. 2,365 million for year 2017,” he added.

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