KINGSTON, October 16, 2021 - Jamaica is one step closer to implementing a new identification system, following the passage of the National Identification and Registration Act, 2021 in the House of Representatives on October 13.
The National Identification System (NIDS) will provide a comprehensive and secure structure to enable the collection and storage of identity information. This secure voluntary tool can also verify an individual’s identity, facilitate the electronic signing of documents and securely access a range of government services online.
In April 2019, the Constitutional Court highlighted deficiencies in the previous 2017 Act. However, these have been fully addressed in the new legislation. The Bill, which has undergone several adjustments, consultations and a Joint Select Committee since, was passed with 14 amendments with the support of the Opposition.
Making his contribution to the Debate on the Bill, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, said introduction of the new legislation and its accompanying policies will redound to the benefit of all Jamaicans, particularly those who have been denied access to government services in the past because of a lack of legal identification documents.
He pointed out that the new law, which will be voluntary, will not infringe on the rights of Jamaicans.
“We are giving our commitment that this Bill will work in favour of the people; it will respect their rights to privacy, it will be forward-leaning in protecting those rights and it will increase the efficiency; it will increase the well-being and welfare of our people,” the Prime Minister noted.
He said NIDs is going to incrementally, for each person, improve the efficiency of doing business, Jamaicans’ well-being and quality of life.
“So, your quality of life is going to improve… . I give the guarantee that every single Jamaican is going to see an improvement in their quality of life,” he added.
The Prime Minister said digital identification is the missing link to minimise the excessively complicated administrative procedures behind several face-to-face services.
He noted that for the individual citizen, the digital identification will provide a single ID that will be widely accepted, and it will enable participation in the formal financial system.
Closing the debate, Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, said the need for identification is significant in the country, noting that close to one million Jamaicans lack proper identification.
He pointed out that the legislative framework has been strengthened and improved during the various deliberations to recognise and protect the right to privacy of an enrolled individual, particularly as it relates to protection of data/identity information; strengthen the organisational and governance structure of the National Identification and Registration Authority; and to ensure that the penalties reflect the gravity of the offences created under the legislation.
The legislative framework has also been improved to strengthen the independent oversight of the Authority and to ensure that a most comprehensive enabling structure exists to facilitate implementation of NIDS.
The legislation will also establish the National Identification and Registration Inspectorate, which will have responsibility for monitoring the Authority, among other things, in order to ensure that it operates within the bounds of the legislation, and direct and advise the Authority on its compliance.
The Inspectorate’s functions are to be carried out by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ).
Mr. Chuck informed that the existing tax registration number (TRN) will be used as the unique nine-digit National Identification Number (NIN).
“The proposed relationship between the two systems is specifically for verifying that the TRN provided by an individual is assigned, in the TRN database, to the person who is applying to enrol in the NIDS and to ensure that all new numbers are generated from a single repository to minimise duplication,” he said.