Government has lost approximately $4 million as a result of having to dump about 500,000 chip-based identification cards, Minister of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology Senator Kay McConney has revealed.
Sitting in the hot seat today with senior officials from her ministry and its departments, McConney responded to questions from her parliamentary colleagues in the House of Assembly as debate on the Estimates for 2019/2020 continued into day two.
She disclosed that about seven years ago the then Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration had invested in about half-a-million multi-purpose ID cards that were to be used to “re-register the population” and for national insurance purposes and even pay for bus rides on Transport Board buses.
However, she said the chip-based cards “sat in storage all of these years” rendering them almost useless.
“Just this year the ministry had those cards sent for forensic testing and the ministry also spoke with the manufacturers of the silicone chips that are in those cards, and unfortunately the manufacturers of the chip have informed Barbados that those cards, having sat in storage for so many years, they cannot guarantee their performance at this time,” she revealed.
“We were also told that the chips are no longer being manufactured and therefore, should Barbados choose to proceed and use those cards they will not be providing any technical support should there be a malfunction,” added McConney.
Lamenting that the country was now forced to forfeit about $4 million in smart ID cards, which was a cost to taxpayers, McConney said the project came at a time when residents were crying out and Barbados could “ill-afford to be losing that kind of money”.
However, she added that an approximately $2.5 million database to accommodate the ID cards, was still in place and could still be used.
“So out of a close to $7 million investment we will be able to save less than half,” she said.
The technology minister promised that the new Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration would be pushing ahead with the implementation of new digital ID cards.
Barbados’ ID is currently a laminated paper printed with basic information consisting of a registration number, the holder’s name, sex, date of birth, nationality, height, date of issue and a signature.
She said just recently Cabinet agreed to move forward with the new digital ID, understanding that the old cards would have to be discarded and replaced by new cards to take us into the future.
“We know that Barbados can now still implement a national ID but with the advanced technology that will cause us, not only to have digital IDs now, but mobile IDs, where you can use your cellphone for ID purposes, to pay and to do business with government…,” said McConney.