Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says a new smart identity card is to be piloted in the next six months and should be in the wallets of all South Africans within two years. 

BEKEZELA PHAKATHI
Published: 2012/04/26 06:57:43 AM - Business Day

A new smart identity card is to be piloted in the next six months and should be in the wallets of all South Africans within two years, says Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Billed as "revolutionary", the smartcard identity document (ID) will replace the green ID books, which have been prone to forgery and identity theft.

Speaking at a press briefing yesterday before delivering her budget vote speech in Parliament, Ms Dlamini-Zuma said the pilot phase would prioritise people applying for IDs for the first time and cost about R5m. The project's total cost was not yet known.

The smart cards will have embedded microchips storing information such as fingerprints, which can be verified by a specially made card reader. The Department of Home Affairs hopes this will make it impossible for the card to be forged.

"We have decided that it is high time we move from the dompas to the smart card ... you recall that the idea of piloting a smart card was in our strategic plan for last year, so we have been doing the work quietly," Ms Dlamini-Zuma said. The project was an "in-house" collaboration between her department and the Government Printing Works.

"By the time we roll it out, we want to have dealt with all the possible hiccups, but already we are happy with the product that we have ... it will allow citizens to have modern identification cards rather than the outdated book that is easy to forge," she said.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma told Parliament the smart card would be a key element in the national identity system that will replace the current civic and immigration identity systems. It " will enable us to digitally capture biometric and biographical details of all South Africans or foreign nationals".

"Internationally, the trend is towards establishing integrated identity systems that can enable faster, accessible, more efficient and secure services across government and the private sector."

Democratic Alliance home affairs spokesman Manny de Freitas said: "These innovations were long overdue. We will be watching this initial pilot and roll-out with interest and excitement."

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