The House of Representatives on Wednesday (October 13) passed the National Identification and Registration Act 2021. This Bill, which aims to provide a one comprehensive identification for each citizen and improve the ease of doing business, was approved after 40 years of delays across various administrations.
Speaking in Parliament on the matter, Prime Minister Andrew Holness asserted that if the NIDS Bill had been passed earlier, Jamaica would be far more advanced as a digital society, especially in the fight against COVID-19.
The Prime Minister said: “Societies that have these kinds of national identification systems on which they layer on and build their online systems were not as badly impacted as societies like ours where the physical presentation of yourself to conduct a transaction was still necessary.”
Furthermore, Prime Minister Holness underscored that the absence of proper identification remains a significant barrier for thousands of Jamaicans. During his presentation, Prime Minister Holness highlighted that approximately 35,000 Jamaicans did not collect their COVID-19 CARE grants due to a lack of legal identification. The Prime Minister pointed to data from the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI), which estimated that 200,000 needy Jamaicans do not have proof of legal identification.
In that regard, Prime Minister Holness emphasised that national identification is the foundation to advance changes that will have a lifelong positive impact on our country. He said, “Modern digital economies are built on implementing strong digital identities for citizens that embrace privacy rights and security as the cornerstone for building sustainable, transparent and robust identification systems.”
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister acknowledged the political actors and processes that rigorously tested the strength and integrity of the Bill, resulting in a robust piece of legislation. In his statement, he expressed that the implementation of a solid national identification and registration authority rests upon the trust of the Jamaican people and will take time.
In that regard, Prime Minister Holness also noted that the Government will create the National Identification and Registration Authority, which will be responsible for the civil registration and national identification system (NIDS). Additionally, the National Identification and Registration Inspectorate, which will be established will be responsible for independently monitoring the Authority as it relates to compliance with the governing legislation.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Holness reiterated that a single digital identification accepted by everyone to conduct business, would minimise the complicated administrative procedures behind several face-to-face transactions across the public and private sectors.
Prime Minister Holness concluded his presentation by assuring Jamaicans that everyone will benefit from an improved quality of life with a national identification system that is efficient, integrous and responsive to the needs of citizens.