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Digital ID cards ‘on the verge’ of being issued

a year ago

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  • TRCSL Head makes announcement, adding ICTA, Ministry working together
  • Promises world’s ‘most sophisticated’ features 
  • Finger prints, iris, face recognition to be added subsequently
  • Optimistic of automating court within 2.5 years
By Madhusha Thavapalakumar The much-awaited, long-pending digital identification (ID) cards are “on the verge” of being issued, with the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and the Ministry of Technology actively working together for the issuance, stated Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) Chairperson Jayantha de Silva.  Addressing an event that was held in Colombo last evening (25), de Silva stated that the current ID system is “obsolete”, and hence the Ministry has decided to issue digital ID cards with “some of the most sophisticated features available in the world”.  “Base work is mostly completed. We will be incorporating iris, fingerprint, and face recognition soon,” de Silva added.  Over the past few years, the Sri Lankan Government has been promising the digitalisation of the NIC, which is yet to be witnessed. Sri Lanka was very early in introducing a national identity card (NIC) – which it did in the early 1970s – to all of its citizens who were at least 16 years of age, compared to other countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, and Iran. Ironically, however, despite being one of the first countries that introduced it, Sri Lanka is far behind many developed countries in digitalising its NIC. The digital ID project was reportedly proposed initially in 2012 when current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the Defence Secretary. However, the project did not take off. In 2015, the then-Government announced plans to launch digital ID cards by early 2016, by prioritising it above all other development initiatives of the Budget. The authorisation to issue the cards was vested with the Department for Registration of Persons and ICTA. That same year, the Cabinet of Ministers ratified the proposal to issue digital ID cards. However, the project did not get off the ground, and the then-Government attributed the delays to a lack of clarity regarding the ownership of the project, as of October 2018.  Talking about other projects of the TRCSL, he stated that under the “Gamata Sanniwedanaya” programme, an initiative with a core objective of driving Sri Lanka towards 100% 4G/Broadband coverage in ensuring seamless access to digital services across the country irrespective of geographical barriers, all state schools in Sri Lanka would soon have fibre-optic connectivity.    “We will be the first country to do this. We are also looking at court automation. The challenges in doing so are immense but we have decided to automate all court proceedings. Within 2.5 years, we will revolutionise how our court system works. This is again a first in the world,” he added. 

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