The Cayman Islands government is again considering the creation of a national number system for all residents, similar to a social security card or national identification card system.
The problem at the moment is whether the public sector has the financial and personnel resources to monitor and maintain such a system.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said earlier this month at a government professional development conference that an announcement would be forthcoming regarding the development of a system of “unique identifiers” that would allow an individual to use “one number” to procure all government services.
It would also let government services coordinate services like immigration, health care and pensions for both Caymanian and non-Caymanian residents, according to Ministry of Home Affairs chief officer Eric Bush.
“It’s one of the intended goals of e-government,” Mr. Bush said. “The whole intent of it is to improve efficiency and customer service.”
Mr. Bush admits the proposal has “not been progressed” and is merely at the discussion stage for the moment.
Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo is heading up the e-government strategy group and said the committee intends to resume meeting in January to discuss number ID cards “at the top of the agenda.”
Mr. Suckoo said the government, on a smaller scale, had already implemented such a project through the Department of Vehicle Licensing, but needed to discuss matters further before proceeding.
Although the latest government proposal for a numbering system for residents is not being referred to as a “national ID card,” the Legislative Assembly has debated various proposals to create such a system over the last three decades with little success.
The last instance was tried in 2007, via a private members motion made to the Legislative Assembly by then George Town member Alfonso Wright. Supporters of the 2007 motion said ID cards could have more functions than simply listing a person’s name and age for identification or security purposes. Health information could be included along with emergency contact data, members said.
Advocates also said the measure would provide people without photo IDs a means of identification they could use when making credit or debit card transactions at local stores.
When such a motion was first debated in 1987, it was defeated. Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush was in the legislature at the time.
“We made attempts to get such a system, and the first time we did it, we were called communists,” Mr. Bush said during the 2007 debate.
The second time the ID card system was proposed in a private member’s motion was in 1989 when a “voluntary” ID card system was approved on a 13-1 vote of the Legislative Assembly. Lawmakers said the system was never implemented. Mr. Wright’s motion in 2007 was also approved, to no apparent effect.
Deputy Governor Manderson discussed the national number card system during the development conference in the context of improving customer service, an area in which the civil service often receives criticism.
“That’s what our customers are saying about the service we are providing and it has to change,” Mr. Manderson said. “We have to take this criticism seriously.”
He said the civil service was continuing to work on its “digital by default” program, improving government’s IT strategy and putting more public services on line, particularly payment options.
Also, the deputy governor’s office is reviewing local laws and procedures, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, to identify which areas are the most “irritating and bureaucratic.”
Mr. Manderson said the idea was to create “predictability” in the decisions made by government.