By Sufyan Maghur.
Tripoli, 16 February 2013:
The Libyan government announced on February 8 the issuance of NID (National Identification) numbers to all . . .[restrict]Libyan citizens, and the revelation of the new Libyan e-Passport in a presentation by the Deputy Prime Minister. These projects had been initially launched during the time of the Qaddafi regime and were mostly operational when the revolution started in 2011.
What’s puzzling in the announcement is the fact that the current government did not take into account all the flaws that marred these projects, specifically the NID Project, nor did it do a proper analysis or study of them. Most advanced countries do not have an NID system but rather a Social Number that is only relevant to the Tax and Social Services. Contrary to international standards in the field, Libya is still insisting on continuing a project that was based on a security-phobic regime and not concerned in facilitating services to its citizens.
Seemingly the Libyan government did not attempt to look into still valid signed contracts with another producing company and rather is moving towards contracting a new company to issue the same exact document. Shockingly, this previously contracted company has been paid more than 70 percent of the value of its contract, including the cost of the e-Passport itself.
The e-Passport is a document mainly composed of a chip that holds the data and the book itself. Any alterations to the book can be made anytime prior to printing. As such, there should not be a problem with the previous company, as all changes can be made since the documents haven’t been printed yet. It is not clear if the government is using the same company based on the previous paid contract or a new contract with full payment as this was not disclosed during the announcement. If they are using a new company then the fact remains that we have paid for two e-Passports and are using one.
The other dilemma is the early announcement of the e-Passport prior to launching the actual Passport issuance system. Issuing a Passport does not mean the printing of the document only, but rather a complete system that is distributed across the nation allowing citizens to apply using a centralized database to ensure authenticity and avoid the issuing of duplicate passports.
The printing process is the final stage and it only produces the electronic document with the data encrypted in the chip. Completing and launching such a system is a timely and sensitive procedure. So how quickly did the government start this system and is it really operational with the necessary infrastructure and database that will allow such production? Or was this a premature announcement meant to temporarily please the Libyan citizens?
And more importantly didn’t the government promise transparency in the procurement of such projects, so when was this RFP announced? And on what basis was the contracting company selected?
On another note, the NID system remains based on the shattered records of the Civil Authority Registry that has proven to have an exaggerated number of unauthenticated family books and records. To make matters even worse, the NID numbers were issued based on the Civil Authority Registry records without the physical authentication of the Libyan citizen holding that number (According to the announcement).
How can the authorities be certain of the identity of the citizen based solely on records and not on the physical presence of the person himself or herself. The simple knowledge of a certain person’s Family Record Number, gives way to a criminal to misrepresent and assume that person’s identity in applying physically for the NID card.
According to the announcement, NID number have already been issued (as numbers) for all Libyans according to the Civil Registry… I will use two examples:
- Assume that a Libyan child was born and then registered in the Civil Authority Registry. This child travelled abroad and never returned to Libya (has no intention to return or past away and the death was never registered). Does this mean that this individual has an NID number? And does it also mean that a person (Libyan or None) obtaining the family number can obtain his NID and get his identity?
- Another very important example are the Libyans who are missing during the revolution and who have not been declared dead (In this case they are still registered in the civil registry as alive). Does this mean they also have NID’s issued and anyone knowing this fact can obtain their family number and can manipulate their identity?
The NID card is a complicated system and should not be implemented in a rush without taking into account a complete analysis of all scenarios and workflows. As a start, the Civil Authority must be reviewed and its civil registry must be separated from the family book. The unreliable database currently used by Libya’s civil registry needs a complete overhaul prior to making it the basis for any future systems in the country.
Determining the identity of a person is usually based on two or more ID’s and not an NID that can be corrupted or duplicated. As I have explained in my opening statement , National ID’s are mostly only used for Tax and Social Services with the understanding that they can be compromised. However, the resulting damage is only limited to the Services and not the creation of a Citizen or an individual.
Most advanced countries use technology to create smaller projects that are easily managed and try as much to make them independent. However, these small projects will all have the option to be integrated to benefit from one another in addition to allowing Libyan IT companies to be a part in these projects if not the main contractor and assisting the Libyan high tech professionals and industry. Libya always insists on creating strategic huge projects that can only be implemented by foreign companies with a great loss to the Libyan talent.
Our government is misleading the Libyan public with the emphasis on the e-Government prior to the correct structure of the different departments in place and the creation of a systematic workflow that can provide the necessary services through service centres and electronically if possible. The correct e-Government is to transfer the service already available to the public in an electronic form and MOST identity applications are not available online but rather the application forms and directions only.
I hope that the Libyan government will study the NID system more to make sure if this project is needed or will it be better to start issuing drivers’ licences and e-Passports independent of the centralized NID card that adds no value to the ID but rather makes things more complicated and compromised.
I urge our government to focus on the services workflow which can be available to most Libyans who do not have internet access and then transform it into an electronic form to help the rest of the nation. It is never wise to jump to the final step before climbing all the previous steps.
The opinions contained in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the Libya Herald. [/restrict]