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By Esther Lavu (Esther Lavu is a Research Fellow, and leader of the Population Research program at the National Research Institute.)

FORMAL identification is a step towards development in the modern world. The inability to prove “who are you” and “are you who you claim to be” is a growing concern for many people in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Birth, death and marriage certificates, and work ID cards are formal identifications, and are evidences of proof. In the future, the right to enrol in schools or be included in the electoral roll to vote, and to seek health services and formal employment will progressively require formal identity. Unfortunately, these formal identifications are not possessed by many Papua New Guineans. The national e-ID card system aims to close this gap.

IDENTITY

Benefits

At a personal level, this database will prevent identity theft. More importantly, the identity will provide identity verification for employment, opening a new bank account and using an electronic travel ticketing. The e-ID card becomes a form of formal identification and will be universally acceptable.

Experiences from other countries show that people enrol in a national population databases are issued with a unique number that is linked to only one individual. This unique number is linked to his personal information and no one else can use his identity for benefits. This is one way of reducing widespread corruption at the lowest level.

Generally, the national e-ID card system will address the lack of secured, simple and universal method for citizen identification. When the national e-ID system is fully established and is in operation, PNG will own a centralised live central database of all its citizens. This will reduce the duplication of efforts and resources in data collection by various government agencies. However, it is important that the e-ID is standardised rather than a one-off process.

The national e-ID card system is the identification service that will facilitate requirements for the government and private service providers. For example, the information from the Population Information Management System or PIMS will help PNG Electoral Commission to check and verify their voting population numbers as there is an increasing demand for inclusion in the Electoral role. The health planners will also use the numbers to plan for future immunisation programs so that all females in the ages of 15-45 can be vaccinated.

PNG e-ID card system

The aim is to enrol every Papua New Guinea (PNG) citizen in a computerised national population database, which will be known as the Population Information Management System. The PIMS will contain the identity information for all PNG living citizens. From the PIMS, eligible citizens will be issued with a citizen identification card (e-ID cards). The ID card with a photo of a face will be linked to biometrics of finger print scans and individual information. A person’s identity includes name, address, date of birth, gender, parent/guardian details and other information.

This is a development driven project that will support the government’s electronic governance system (e-governance). The e-governance is linking all national databases and only authorised groups can trace information in all relevant databases kept by the government. Although a number of electronic government databases exist, they are not linked in any way.

The system that must support an individual’s formal identification is the Civil Registration System. The registration of events such as births, deaths and marriages form an important database that can assist government and private entities. However, this government program registered only a fraction of the population. Others included in the minority are those employed in the formal workforce with issued work ID cards. The identity gap between those with formal identity and those with no formal identification is increasingly recognised as not only a sign of underdevelopment but as a reason that make development more difficult and less inclusive.

To help people with no formal identifications, there are programs in PNG that provide individuals with some official identity in the context of delivery of a particular service. The PNG telecommunication sector has introduced a cash transfer via the mobile phones system. The banking systems have also introduced identity free banking services for the citizens. Currently no fees are attached to the initiative but it is likely that in the long run, fees will be imposed to continue the administration of such services. The e-ID card system is important for the people as it will be fee free and will be beneficial in many ways.

Additionally, the national e-ID card system is a tool for development planning and service delivery. The government and the other partners must work together to strengthen the on-going PNG e-ID card system once it is established. By supporting the PNG e-ID cards system, the ID cards issued from the PNG e-ID card system will eliminate the different requirements demanded by various government and private agencies.

However, the privacy protection is a top priority in building the foundation of PIMS so that individual’s identity is protected. Citizens will provide personal information and it is the responsibilities of the government to safe guard their personal identity. Mass disclosure of information must remain strictly to only authorised groups. An individual can exercise discretion and disallow the disclosure of your personal information for certain purposes.

It is of great value that the government is creating the national e-ID system which will serve as the identity service provider. It is planning this service against the challenge of many unhappy people who have not benefited from basic services. But the current government approach of increased funding towards sub-national levels is an indication of improved provisions of services. The co-operation and support of the sub national level governments and the partners are essential in creating the PNG e-ID system.

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