Thu | Jun 4, 2020

How would NIDS help?

Published:Thursday | April 2, 2020 | 12:00 AM


AT A recent press conference on the COVID-19 update, Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the point that in times of crises such as this, it underscores the urgent need for a National ID (NIDS) system to identify all Jamaicans. The system, which was delayed due to legislative issues, he says, could’ve been used to help identify and verify applicants seeking financial aid from the Government due to loss of employment arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Government’s response to the crisis is commendable, I took issue with how the PM sneakingly tried to justify NIDS at this time.

What about the Tax Registration Number (TRN), which most Jamaicans have and need for employment, and just about all types of financial transactions and interaction with government? Since the TRN is required to work, open bank account, deal with the tax office, file returns, and get a driver’s licence which carries the holder’s photo, why couldn’t it be effectively used to verify the identity and employment of those seeking financial support. If NIDS were in place with all the biometrics and other data, how would that help exactly? It is not likely that you can locate people randomly, as people do move around and change addresses.


This is a difficult and challenging time, but let us be careful about how we use the crisis to push other agenda. Any new legislation justifying NIDS must be done with careful deliberation and bipartisan review, along with public consultation with key stakeholders. Both the United Kingdom and New Zealand rejected a similar ID system due to backlash about privacy and data-security concerns. Why can’t we find other ways to efficiently integrate our current ID systems?

We cannot overstep boundaries in the haste to push NIDS, especially when it affects human rights, which could have long-lasting and detrimental effects!

P. Chin