|If there is one document or number without which one will have great difficulty in going about one's daily life, it is the ID document containing one's ID number. This small green book is our key to opening accounts, applying for services such as healthcare, a driving licence or passport, or even for employment. It is your number for life, without which many doors will be closed, and it is a book and number which proves that you are a South African.
Having said this, one can understand why so many people who are not South African citizens, but who wish to have access to the same services that we do, would do everything in their power to get hold of their own green bar-coded ID documents and numbers. This has opened up a market for corrupt officials who issue IDs to desperate individuals who are willing to pay "an extra fee" to ensure that they get an ID, or to other individuals who know how to forge these important documents.
It was against this background that the South African government realised that a new system should be put in place in an effort to curb the forgery of ID documents. Although the current green bar-coded ID book has some security features, they are apparently insufficient.
A pilot project
On 17 May 2012, the Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, informed members of the National Press Club in Pretoria of vital information regarding the Smart ID Card that will replace the green bar-coded ID document. Ms Zuma said that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has launched a pilot project in which they have set up and started issuing cards for their officials. This is to ensure that the process will be a seamless one once they start issuing the cards to the general public. As part of this pilot, the frontline offices of the DHA also need to be equipped with new equipment, while the DHA officials need to be trained in the new process. The application process will, in future, be a paperless one as an individual's details will be captured directly onto the system. This means that the individual's information will also be much more accurate, as the process will not involve various officials who have to rewrite the same information on various forms. The information that is captured in the front office where the individual applies will be sent directly to the printer. In other words, the applicant will be able to verify that his/her details are captured correctly before they are sent off to the printers. This process aims to guarantee not only accuracy, but also speed.
Ms Zuma said that, if all goes according to plan, the process of issuing Smart ID Cards, as they are called, will start within the next six months, specifically to those who apply for their IDs for the first time. “The idea was that in the first 18 months or so we will begin the roll out of this to the public. We will have a system - either alphabetically or by date of birth - but there will be a clear process of how we replace the IDs. We hope to finish this within two years or so, and then everyone will have the card. From then on it will just be the card,” says Ms Dlamini Zuma.
New security features
Apart from the advantage that the new Smart ID Card will be issued in a shorter time period than the current green bar-coded ID document, one of the most important reasons why the new system is being piloted is the added security features of the card. The current green ID document has a bar-code and a few watermarks which are visible under a fluorescent light, but not many more security features. Many fraudsters have been able to “replace” the photo, and even some of the personal details, on this ID document without being caught out.
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