by Marlon Madden
Barbadians could be getting their chip-based national identification cards sooner than expected, as the Government seeks out a fresh approach to tackle challenges relating to contact tracing in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.
This indication has come from Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who announced that the use of a digital ID card could be critical in addressing some of the shortcomings. She explained that over the past several days, officials have discovered that some people were giving incorrect addresses and other contact information when they visit establishments, making it difficult for authorities to effectively carry out their contract tracing.
In recent days, the island has recorded a spike in local COVID-19 positive cases, which has led to the temporary closure of several businesses.
Due to the unexpected increase in positive COVID-19 cases, extensive and “aggressive” contact tracing has been taking place.
However, addressing the nation on Monday night, Mottley disclosed that authorities were coming up against roadblocks due to the incorrect information that was recorded for some individuals.
As such, she said her administration would be fast-tracking the introduction of the long-promised multi-purpose national identification cards. However, she did not give a timeline for the rollout of the project.
“In some instances, people are giving wrong contact information, wrong addresses, et cetera. Therefore, we are going to be tightening up on what information is to be given, but more importantly,
I think that we [will] look to introduce the digital ID card, which we have expedited,” announced Mottley, who added that the multi-purpose e-ID cards would also be critical in Barbados’ quest to become a “cashless society”.
“We want to move as far as possible to a cashless society, because cash itself has become a medium for the virus, as I understand it. We are also going to have some conversations as to what are the obligations of citizens with respect to the provision of accurate information on their address, particularly in areas where it is required,” said Mottley.
It was around 2012 that the then Democratic Labour Party administration invested in hundreds of thousands of multi-purpose ID cards that were to be used for various purposes across the public and private sector.
However, while disclosing a year ago that the Government had lost some $4 million as a result of having to dump about 500, 000 of the digital ID cards, Minister of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology Senator Kay McConney revealed then that a $2.5 million (approx.) database to accommodate the planned smart cards was already in place.
The 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.
It was last September that the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology signed an agreement with Productive Business Solutions (PBS) Barbados Ltd, as Government signalled its commencement of what it called the Barbados Digital ID and National ID Card Replacement Project. PBS is to be the supplier of software, ID cards, printers, and professional services for the ID replacement project.
It is hoped that the proposed digital identity system will facilitate the secure transfer of information for several activities including internet banking, e-commerce and e-communications, while at the same time providing user authentication in online transactions and facilitating the signing of documents electronically.