Government plans to develop ‘online ID’ for all South Africans

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has published its draft national data and cloud policy for public comment, outlining the government’s plan to move towards online systems.

Included in the policy is the proposal to create an online identity for South Africans, as well as increased public-private data sharing as a means of improving service delivery and uplifting people.

“At the heart of digital transformation is the development of an online identity for all citizens in support of service delivery and economic emancipation,” the department states.

It adds that government and private sector organisations are transforming their service delivery models, shifting them towards digital domains, ensuring that citizens and customers can access the services securely at any given time, anywhere and through any device.

The department said that non-sensitive government data should also be made available to all citizens to enable innovation and the development of digital solutions that can solve societal problems.

These solutions and innovations could also help government to accelerate service delivery to all citizens, it said.

The Department of Home Affairs said in March that it was working on a new biometrics system that will form art of government’s new digitally-focused identity management policy.

A draft identity management policy published by the Department of Home Affairs in January 2021 provides additional information on how the National Identification System will work.

“It is currently possible for anyone who has not applied for an ID to successfully claim and use the identity of another person who has also not applied for an ID,” the policy statement said.

It explained that this is possible because the biometrics of South African children are not captured after birth.

“The DHA currently has no way to reliably verify that a child who presents a birth certificate as proof of identity during interactions with the department – for example, when applying for an ID for the first time – is truly the person whose birth the certificate is meant to certify.

“Any child can lay claim to the identity of another child and such instances have been recorded.”

To address these and other issues, the DHA has made the following recommendations:

  • Records of persons throughout their lifespan including the capturing of the biometrics of children at birth. Where impossible, the biometrics of a parent must be linked to the birth certificate of a child;
  • ID numbers based on parents. Ideally, these numbers should also be linked to their parents’ identity numbers and mother’s biometric data;
  • Re-registration of children at five years of age and when possible, the biometrics of a child must be collected at birth.  A combination of different biometric data for children will be considered with options such as the photograph of the ear;
  • Recognition of other sex/gender categories on identity documents.

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Government plans to develop ‘online ID’ for all South Africans