South African ID books to be replaced by Smart Cards

South African Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor has announced the green, bar-coded identification books will be replaced by smart ID cards containing fingerprint biometric data cards early next year.

“Since I was appointed in October this year, I have familiarised myself with Department of Home Affairs (DHA) programmes and plans. I have visited several passport offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. I was impressed with what I saw and heard,” said Pandor.

“The DHA has made progress. I am satisfied that plans are in place to improve efficiency through digital innovation so we are able to issue Identity Documents (IDs) and passports faster than before as painlessly as possible.”

Pandor said the smart ID cards should be in the hands of the South African citizens from next year after more than a decade’s worth of delays, but no date has yet been set.

The four year transition period from the ID books to smart ID cards depends on the early 2013 start to the project being met.

The modernisation process includes upgrades to the live capture systems for IDs, passports, permits and visas, the IT infrastructure and the new national population register system that will be responsible for all births and all citizens.

Despite the plan to launch the cards to the public early next year, security features for the cards are still being discussed. It has been established that the card will include a microchip that will contain biometric data.

The particulars of the cardholder will be laser-engraved into the card in order to prevent illegal modifications being made to the card. One of the features being discussed is a pin code option as a secondary means of verification.

The Government Printing Works will be responsible for the manufacturing of the personalised smart ID cards.

The minister could not confirm whether the cards would be manufactured using near-field communication (NFC) technology, but the cards will operate through contactless machine-readable scanners.

Pandor said the costs have not yet been established, but the department intends on keeping the price range similar to the current green ID books. The department expects to give the first issue of cards for free.

According the the DHA’s records there are 29,677 people with duplicated IDs, which remains a concern for the department.

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