Home affairs targets 3m smart IDs this year

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The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will print around three million smart ID cards this year as it moves towards a new national identity system in a bid to fight corruption. This is in addition to the 100 000 it expects to have issued by the end of March.

The new card replaces the green barcoded ID book, which is susceptible to fraud. It will also help the department to remove fraudulent entries from the national population register and eradicate duplicate identity numbers.

The transition from ID books to smart IDs will take place over six years, with the first two years targeting pensioners and people who are receiving their first ID cards. The smart ID card rollout forms part of the DHA's modernisation programme, which is currently being rolled out in a bid to provide secure and efficient services to all citizens.

The DHA's spending focus over the next three years will be to improve the quality of services it provides to citizens and foreigners, it was revealed in the budget 2014 address this afternoon.

Over the medium-term, the department will trim the turnaround time for issuing new identity documents from the current 54 days to 30 days as it replaces the identity book with a smart ID card; register new births within 30 days as the early registration of birth; and maintain the current turnaround of 13 days for issuing a passport. This information is contained in its budget vote in National Treasury's Estimates of National Expenditure document.

The smart ID programme kicked off last May, when Altech Card Solutions won the R40 million contract to provide the Government Printing Works with card personalisation equipment. Gemalto Southern Africa has a deal, estimated to be worth R199 million, to supply pre-printed polycarbonate cards, containing a contactless microchip.

Moving to the new system will cost South Africans billions, as each identity book will need to be swapped for a card at a cost to individuals of around R140. Home affairs will phase in this process, based on birth months.

Last year, it registered 1.3 million births, 144 370 marriages and 473 853 deaths.

Moving forward

The DHA says, to meet its targets, spending on computer services will increase because of additional allocations to implement a system modernisation programme, which will provide an integrated IT platform to decrease the turnaround time for issuing enabling documents.

The department has allocated R1.1 billion to complete the development of the integrated systems by the next financial year, while system rollout will continue over the next three years.

So far, R1.4 billion has been spent and the department has yet to complete several aspects, including live capture functionality for identity documents and passports; the cleaning of the national population register; core systems integration of civics and immigration; and the upgrading of the visa and permitting system.

Home affairs' modernisation programme, previously called "Who Am I Online", stalled in 2010, after it had a dispute with the then service provider, Gijima. It resumed in 2012/13 and aims to provide an integrated IT platform to decrease the turnaround time for issuing identity documents; birth, death and marriage certificates; passports and visas, among other documents.

Gijima is still trying to recover from the costly Who Am I Online deal with home affairs, which the department cancelled in April 2010. The implementation was finally resolved in January 2011, costing Gijima R374 million, which wiped out its bottom line that year.

The system is designed to automate the end-to-end business processes, and supports transactional processing. It simultaneously provides information that includes photographs, fingerprints, signatures, voice recordings, demographic information and scanned supporting documents.

Over the medium-term, the department plans to rollout live capture functionality for identity documents and passports to 240 additional offices. To achieve this, it will invest R886 million on modernising systems.

The rollout of the movement control system covers 38 ports of entry, which did not form part of preparations for the Fifa World Cup in 2010. The DHA has also rolled out live capture functionality for identity documents and passports to three offices and expects a total of 70 offices will have the system by the end of March.

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