Sun | Apr 5, 2020

PSOJ point man bullish on NIDS - New PSOJ tech team to push digital transformation for development

Published:Wednesday | February 26, 2020 | 12:15 AMHuntley Medley/Senior Business Writer

The roll-out of the controversial national identification system, NIDS, is receiving strong support from the umbrella private sector group, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, PSOJ.

In fact, Christopher Reckord was recently named the group’s point man on digital transformation and he is quite bullish on the role of the NIDS as an economic enabler, and is very critical of what he sees as political posturing on the issue.

PSOJ President Keith Duncan says the innovation and digital transformation committee was recently formed, and that Reckord’s views reflect those of the business group.

Reckord, the CEO for listed technology firm tTech and board chairman of the Government’s Internet build-out and computer distribution agency e-learning Jamaica, chairs the PSOJ’s committee on innovation and digital transformation. He believes that NIDs is needed to drive economic development in Jamaica and positively transform service delivery, starting with the sprawling public sector.

In an interview with the Financial Gleaner, Reckord made note of the more than 40 years of ‘starts and stops’ towards getting a national identification system in place in Jamaica.

“Michael Manley got up on a stage in 1978 or 79 to say we need to have a national ID system. And it has been supported by every single political party since then but they all support it when they are in (office). Everyone wants to do it by themselves,” Reckord said of the current impasse, which has seen the opposition People’s National Party, PNP, mount a successful court challenge to the constitutionality of the NIDS Act.

The PSOJ technology spokesman is encouraging the two major political parties to bury the hatchet and work together to ensure the implementation of technology-based identification system for which the Government secured a US$68-million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, IDB.

“Right now, the PNP wants it but they want to do it, because this is going to be a major turnaround for the country. If the JLP looks like they are ahead, they (the PNP) are going to throw every bomb into the thing, but at some point in time some of us are going to have to wake up and realise that this is not moving our country forward,” the IT consultant noted.

He said the recently established PSOJ tech committee is looking into the various possibilities of digital and will not be shy about championing them and agitating and advocating for their implementation. And he pointed to the use of technology various aspects of everyday life, including facial recognition for airport check-in, saying that if Jamaica does not catch up digitally it will be left behind.

Reckord wants event registration and other activities requiring the input of people’s personal data to be made more efficient with the simple swiping of a card that already contains such information.

Concerning the lack of trust among politicians over the storage, management and use of sensitive personal data, he said the NIDs is so structured that no one person will have all information. The majority of the IDB money, he said, is for connecting to the infrastructure of government and making it more efficient, with about 20 per cent of the funds intended for the creation of the ID card.

Reckord is optimistic that data protection legislation, still going through the processing of parliamentary consideration, will allay fears about any possible misuse of data collected and stored as part of the NIDS.

Spread positive message

The tech executive is recommending that the positive message about the economic potential of NIDS and other aspects of digital transformation be simplified and fanned out into communities across Jamaica where the benefits to people’s everyday lives should be highlighted.

One area of application and explanation, he suggests, is in simplifying and speeding up the preparation of police records for travel to places like The Cayman Islands.

Another is revolutionising the work of justices of the peace, who, he said, are often required to vouch for people they don’t know.

“And both political parties have to take out the bogeyman story out of it. We are making this political foolishness drag us into a hole,” Reckord asserted.

He adds that the importance of NIDS for economic transformation requires mature and reasoned discussion at all levels of the society as well as urgent implementation.

The PSOJ, he said, will be ramping up effort to kick-start such discussions while seeking to broker dialogue on the matter at the political level.

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com