South Africa will begin the rollout of smart identity cards on the 18th July in an event linked to the birthday of the country’s political icon Nelson Mandela.
The long awaited program promises to catapult South Africa into a new era of identification of its citizens which is largely defined by digitalization of ID information. It is hoped this will improve security issues and citizens access to key public and private sector services.
The minister of home affairs Naledi Pandor said South Africa joins a handful of countries around the world who have ventured into Smart ID Card.
Nigeria is hot on the heels of South Africa in this development. Africa’s most populous country launched recently a Smart ID Card pilot program powered by MasterCard transacting technology.
The South African Smart ID Card also promises features that can be adapted into secure and instant transactional tools. Pandor described the card as “secure and durable, made of quality polycarbonate materials which will prevent tampering”.
She added that the card features in its body holograms, laser engraving and personal details which will provide visual verification. This makes it easy to identify tampered cards. It also includes fingerprint biometrics and biographic data which is embedded on the 80 kilobytes card chip.
“Personalisation with laser engraving of demographic details and photographs makes the new card extremely difficult to forge,” said Pandor.
Pandor said the rollout will be phased over 7 – 8 years. It will begin on the 18th of June with an issue to the country’s first citizen President Jacob Zuma. The July 18th line up will be followed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, former Presidents of Republic of South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Sophie de Bruyn, Andrew Mlangeni, Dennis Goldberg and Ahmed Kathrada. The lineup will also include a few senior citizens of 80-90 years of age, who have been termed the “Mandela Generation”.
Pandor said “This is indeed service and technological innovation of which we should all be proud”.
She said the new card will take less time to produce than paper documents and the security features are, as I have said, almost impenetrable. “It is equally impressive technologically, with our own Government Printing Works taking on the exciting assignment of producing this on government’s behalf.”
Pandor added that government has to ensure that businesses, banks, the insurance industry and other partners have the necessary equipment to verify Smart ID Cards. “This means that the private sector itself will benefit from knowing exactly who they are transacting with”.
“We are in the process of preparing 27 regional offices which will be the first to issue the new card. We will announce further details in due course”.