Speech by the Prime Minister

Statement by The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP Prime Minister of Jamaica Gordon House November 26, 2019

Mr Speaker, following the Government’s decision not to appeal the April 2019 Constitutional court’s ruling concerning the National Identification and Registration Act 2017, the NIDS project team embarked on a rescheduling of the main activities under the contract between the Government of Jamaica and
Productive Business Solutions (PBS) Limited led consortium to focus on the ICT upgrade activities until the requisite legislative framework is put in place, which would give effect to the implementation of the National Identification System activities.

Mr Speaker let me make it clear that the Government is not abandoning the identification aspects of NIDS. The Government has completed a revised policy consistent with the recommendations of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the NIDS that is now being review by our primary stakeholders. We expect the review process to be completed in the next two weeks after which the Cabinet will consider the revised policy.

Mr Speaker, our target is to issue new drafting instructions with strengthened oversight and security provisions by January 2020 with the aim to table a new bill by the end of financial year 2019/2020.

Mr Speaker, we have always pointed out that this programme was much more than identification, this programme was always about modernizing Jamaica’s ICT
Infrastructure to support the effective and efficient delivery of government services.

The Government is committed to strengthening the public sector systems to enable better service delivery to the people of Jamaica. Our people deserve the best and this administration that I lead is committed to ensuring that the systems, processes and technology are in place to give the people of Jamaica the best possible service. For far too long, and particularly in this post-independence Jamaica, our people have expressed their frustration when trying to conduct business at several public sector entities.

Mr. Speaker we all know the complaints

  1. It takes too long to complete a transaction with the government
  2. So much time is wasted in line and in traffic moving from one government entity to another.
  3. Duplication of processes at various Government offices and institutions and including the private sector
  4. Too much paperwork
  5. Too many identification documents required to gain access to the formal financial system and in some cases to access government benefits.
Mr Speaker, the complaints are getting louder from the average man on the street just to be able to set up a bank account. The compliance issues, the bureaucracy for identification, it is Mr Speaker becoming a hinderance for our growth prospects.

So we Mr Speaker are focused, the government is focused on putting in place the systems that will help to improve the banking requirements and I am just focusing on banking as one area but the ICT aspect of the NIDS will significantly improve the Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements, to ensure that the participation of the average person in the financial sector is secured.

We have listened to the frustration on the various media outlets and we have read the tweets, posts and emails and letters of persons complaining. So today, I want to assure the people of Jamaica that the government in consultation with various stakeholders, will continue to act in the best interest of our citizens to secure and provide a digital platform on which they can conduct commerce seamlessly and efficiently.

On November 11, 2019, the Cabinet approved the first amendment to the NIDS solution contract for the disaggregation, adoption and execution of the non-National Identification System’s activities, outlined in the contract awarded to the Productive Business Solutions (PBS) Limited led consortium.

This the first amendment will allow the project team to focus on the ICT upgrade activities until a new National Identification and Registration Bill is tabled.

The original contract sum was US$31,778,158.58. The part of the ICT infrastructure upgrade that will be undertaken by the PBS led consortium at this time is at a value of US$6,441,547.00.
The Government decided to focus on the initial ICT upgrade to address urgent needs at PICA and RGD. The remainder of the contract is to cover new systems and infrastructure upgrades and implementation of the National Identification System.
However, these activities will not be executed until the new National Identification and Registration Bill is tabled. The House will recall that the NIDS project is broken up into two major activities: 1) the ICT infrastructure upgrade, which accounts for 80 per cent of the IDB loan agreement and 2) the national ID component, which accounts for 20 per cent of the NIDS Project loan.

Mr Speaker, I will now outline what will be included in the scope of work for the ICT infrastructure upgrade activities.

  1. The Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) software, hardware, training, and testing, along with delivery and installation of all data-centre hardware to support the PKI infrastructure – the PKI is the foundation for PICA’s e-Passport security and implementation and the crucial cornerstone to secure government systems nationally.
  2. A Web-Portal (i.e. a self-service web portal software, linked to online payment gate for the delivery of digital RGD services, including digital verifiable birth certificates) – upon completion Mr Speaker, the online verification and authenticating of birth certificates will be available.
The third element is
  1. The development of a Civil Registry Database Optimization (RGD) and e-Wallet. The e-wallet or payment gateway will facilitate the online payment for integrated digital services.
Mr Speaker, if the Government decides at any point during the lifetime of the contract to terminate, then we will only be required to pay for works and services done up to the point of termination, not exceeding US$6,441,547.00 approved for the ICT upgrade.
The Government is serious about harnessing the benefits of technology to transform our society and economy. The wave of information and communication technologies has already arrived and it is high time that Jamaica gets up to speed. According to the World Economic Forum, “by 2022, over 60% of global GDP will be digitized. An estimated 70 per cent of new value created in the economy over the next decade will be based on digitally-enabled platforms.”

Mr Speaker, this ICT infrastructure upgrade that has been approved will allow Jamaicans to benefit from more digital services from the Government. Thereby creating a more efficient, transparent and cost-effective delivery of public goods and services. This is a step in the right direction, and it is in the best interest of our citizens.