ID smart cards on the way for SA

After years of delays, SA's green national identity book is going to be replaced with a smart ID card. But first a pilot will be undertaken.

A pilot project to replace identity documents with smart cards will start in about six months, home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Wednesday.

Dlamini-Zuma, who showed off her own smart card to journalists ahead of her budget speech in parliament, said the cards would go a long way towards stamping out corruption in the home affairs department.

“We decided it is high time we move from the dompass to the smart card,” Dlamini-Zuma said. “At the moment we are in the identification document, which is a transition from the dompass to the smart card. The smart card will allow citizens to have modern identification card rather than the outdated book, which is easy to forge and interfere with.”

Dlamini-Zuma said the card was still in the pilot phase, but that by the time it was rolled out, the department wanted to have dealt with “all the possible hiccups and technical issues”.

“Already we are very happy with the product we have. This will be a card that nobody will be able to forge. If they try we will be able to distinguish between the forged and real card.”

The card would be linked to a system containing all the department’s data, including the population register and information on refugees and immigrants.

“The problem with systems that are many is that somebody can apply for refugee [status] today. Tomorrow they can go to a corrupt official and say I am an SA citizen. We can’t check that in real time. It may be 24 hours before we realise that person has applied for refugee status.

“When we have this one system, you can tell in real time if person is a foreigner and what status they have. They won’t be able to move from one category to another, even if they were able to bribe someone.”

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

The pilot phase roll-out to the public would start with people applying for identification documents for the first time. The machines the department had for the project were “small” and able to roll out only about three million cards a year.

“In six months, we will start producing those, but that will be in the pilot phase. We need machines, which would take 18 months to manufacture to our specifications. We think in two years we can start the bigger roll-out.”

The first phase of the project cost around R5m. The second phase, with the larger, still-to-be-built printing machines, would raise the cost of the project.

The smaller machines were already being used to print cards for airline crew member certificates, similar to smart cards. The card would cost “more or less” the same as an identity book.

Dlamini-Zuma said different information could be loaded onto the chips of the cards.

“For the driver’s licences, for instance, it might be we print them, but it might be a separate one. A driver’s licence you have to change every five years and so on. Those are discussions that are taking place.”

The cards, which contained high-level security features, could be printed “instantly” and would take “a few weeks to deliver”.

Home affairs officials would be able to read information on a card by placing it close to a mobile card reader that used a radio frequency to communicate with the chip. The reader would also take a person’s fingerprints and instantly provide identity details to the officials.  — Sapa

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