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Jamaicans tout benefits of national ID database

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Jamaica is going through the looking glass, taking advantage of technology and launching a National Identification System (NIDS) in 2018, according to reports.

The NIDS, very similar to a Social Security number system that the United States has had for decades, will be used as a countrywide database to store National Identification Numbers for identifying people in the system and tracking where and who are getting government services, reported the Philadelphia Tribune on Saturday.

“This will spur the growth and development of commerce and economic activity through the provision of a platform of greater security and integrity for public partnershi­ps,” the paper quoted Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness as saying.

The Tribune said Holness and his administration feel that the NIDS will enable the government to ensure compliance with tax collection and other critical government functions.

It is seen as strengthening immigration laws, border control and national security,” the Tribute also said. Furthermore, the verification system will authenticate the identity of citizens and other persons who are Jamaican residents and establish a database to generate national identification cards.”

But the Tribune said many Jamaicans are skeptical about the National Identification and Registration Act of 2017, stating that nationals feel “the law will turn them into just another number among the Caribbean island’s 2.8 million inhabitants.”

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the Tribune quoted a Jamaican American who intends to return to the island after retirement.

“Jamaica has been functioning quite well without the formality of a social security system,” said Collin D, whose last name was not used. “This is just going to create more red tape that people have to go through to get anything done. I hope they have a seamless plan in place to roll this out and ensure that all Jamaicans benefit from it. It will be very interesting to see the implementation of this NIN [National Identification Number].”

“I understand that the government is trying to improve things” said Garnett Mills, of Philadelphia. “When I hear that every Jamaican will be given a number.”

“All I can think about is the mark of the beast mentioned in the book of Revelation in the Bible,” he added. “I am from the old school, and I must admit that I am more comfortable with the old way of life. There is something really fishy about this giving everybody a number business.”

Gloria Jones, a Jamaican who is currently visiting family in Delaware, had much to add to the conversation, the Tribune said.

“I listened to news broadcasts and also read newspaper articles about this National Identification Number, and I agree with the prime minister,” she said. “Our prime minister said that the debate on this topic have gone on for more than 40 years and now is the time to act for the betterment of the Jamaican people.

“I am a technology person so I relate to the fact that it is important to have a database for Jamaican citizens, it will help our economy to show what our buying power is,” Jones added. “That is the kind of information that investors are looking for. Even though I do not live in the United States, I do understand that the establishment of this nation’s social security number system for citizens and also those who are permanent residents makes things go smoothly.”

Currently, there is no national database, the Tribune noted, adding that the various systems are not interconnected and cannot share information with each other due to the logistical and legal barriers.

“This leaves the current system open to individuals assuming multiple identities and collect multiple government benefits — lots of room for fraud from someone trying to beat the system,” the paper said, stating that activities such as money laundering, property tax evasion and credit card fraud will be reduced.

“NIN will definitely aid in preventing fraudulent activities and assist in the fight against other crimes, because now the authorities will be able to track such occurrences. of citizens and legal residents of Jamaica and dumb the information into the centralized database,” it added.

With Prime Minister Holness stating that the system will be operational in January, the Tribune said members of the incumbent Jamaica Labor Party have “gone to great lengths to reassure Jamaicans living at home and abroad that this ID system will improve the way in which business is conducted in Jamaica, especially social economic and security programs.”

Holness also says that the system will be highly secure and monitored for hacking, the Tribune said.

It said Johnson Smith, the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, solicited suggestions from members of the Senate and encouraged them to voice their concerns regarding the bill by next week.

“I would welcome if there are outstanding issues, on reading the amendments, if you would submit [suggestions] for amendments so that the technical people can look at them to help us to move with alacrity,” Smith said. “It is critical that we close on Friday and, therefore, anything that we can do to make the process move more effectively would certainly be welcomed.”

Updated 2:56 pm, December 7, 2017
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