Thursday, April 25, 2024

$4 million ‘wasted on smart IDs’


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THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT spent over $4 million to implement the country’s first smart identification card programme, but that money has now been forfeited.

This, after a half-million previously purchased ID cards with special smart-chip technology were left in storage but not utilised.

Minister of Science, Innovation and Smart Technology Senator Kay McConney revealed this in the House of Assembly yesterday.

McConney, speaking during the new question and answer format of the 2019 Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure in the Lower Chamber, was responding to a question posed by Minister of Labour Colin Jordan regarding the status of a proposed new ID card programme.

“About seven years ago, Government at the time would have invested in 500 000 ID cards, multipurpose cards to be used to re-register the population, and also to have additional functions being used for National Insurance and to pay bus fares, et cetera. Those cards would have sat in storage for all those years,” she said.

She said this year the ministry had the cards sent for forensic testing, and also had dialogue with the manufacturers of the silicon chips within the cards, after which it was determined the cards should not be used.

“The manufactures informed us that with the cards having sat in storage for so many years, they cannot guarantee their performance at this time. We were also told that the chips are no longer being manufactured, and therefore should Barbados use the cards, they [the manufacturers] would not be providing any technical support should there be a malfunction.

Can still use database

“About $4 million will now have to be forfeited. The taxpayers had to pay for those, and we will now not be able to use them. That project had two pieces – the physical multipurpose card, and a database system. We were able to find a more robust database that was put in place, and thankfully Barbados can still use that database, to the value of about $2.5 million,” the minister reported.

But McConney said her ministry was moving on from the loss.

“Barbados will continue to move forward with a digital ID,” she told parliamentarians. “Technology has gone past that capability, and we know Barbados can now implement a new national ID, and with technology that will allow us to have mobile IDs where you can use your cell phones for ID purposes, and to pay and do business with Government, managed through a central authority.”

In response to a question by Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey, McConney said more than $2 million would have to be spent by her ministry on professional services, with such being necessary to have access to qualified persons not available in Barbados.

“One of the important things this ministry has to do is to learn how to do things differently,” she explained. “And you see an increase in professional services across the board under all our programmes. The reason for that is because traditionally, Government had gone to the Data Processing Department to access services.

“One of the things this Government will do to stimulate growth, and we get problems that need to be solved internally, we will be engaging citizens and the private sector in solving problems within Government and providing solutions.” (BA)

MINISTER OF SCIENCE, Innovation and Smart Technology Senator Kay McConney.



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