ID cards 'key' to e-government

A national identification card could be a key part of a new e-government initiative, according to Cayman’s e-Government director, Ian Tibbetts. 

In an interview during an e-Governance Academy conference this week, Mr. Tibbetts said he thinks a national ID should be part of the eventual e-government system, giving people access to government and private sector services. 

A nonprofit group from Estonia, often cited as having the most technologically advanced government in the world, is in Cayman this week to host the conference with government and the private sector, aimed at helping to move more services online. 

The Estonian foundation has worked with small countries to help boost online government services to make things easier and more accessible for civil servants and the public. 

“You have to have unique IDs to support all the different users,” said Estonian trainer Annela Kiirats, pointing to the millions of people who have Estonian ID cards that serve as their key to accessing government and private sector services online. The card, which includes a photograph and a chip with a personal ID number, serves as the primary way people in Estonia access bank accounts and government services, such as tax payments. 

The national ID card in Estonia is mandatory for anyone over 15 and has details like those found on a driver’s license, as well as a chip containing a personal ID number. That card, along with the ID number and personal online login information, is the key to all government services, bank accounts and other private sector services that require an ID. 

Estonian trainer Mari Pedak told the group that the physical card offers another degree of online security. Each person receives a card reader that plugs into a computer to confirm their identity. Banks, for example, will allow people to log in for online services with a user name and password, but customers have to plug the card into the computer for transactions over 200 euros (about $184). 

“You have to have strong identification systems,” she said, explaining the need for national ID in Estonia. 

The unified e-government system in Estonia connects all of the various ministries with their different databases so the public can access health records, police files, tax bills and other standard government services. The online system also builds in transparency so the public can see who has viewed their personal information. 

When it comes to protecting privacy, Ms. Pedak told the group, “No mistake is allowed in those areas.” 

“We have very strong data protection laws, especially with the private sector,” she added. 

“Data protection laws are imminent,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “The pressures are building for data protection, not only in the private sector but also the public sector.” 

“We need to make sure the rest of the world can trust their data in this jurisdiction,” he said. 

Cayman’s acting information commissioner, Jan Liebaers, a proponent of pending data protection legislation, said there are “serious privacy concerns” with the e-government proposal and government needs to get the privacy protections in place. 

A sample ID card from the Estonian government.
A sample ID card from the Estonian government.


  1. The is no need for national ID cards or any form of national identification number in order to make the e-government project a success in the Cayman Islands. I accept that there are some clear advantages but it is not essential and represents an unnecessary invasion of our privacy.

    The government can’t be trusted to properly secure our information and no amount of data protection laws will stop hackers from trying to get at this potentially sensitive information.

    I am 100% for e-government but let’s not use this as an opportunity to further infringe on the privacy of individuals within our society when in reality there is no valid reason to do so.

  2. I agree with you Mack. ID cards themselves I don’t disagree with them inherently, but it’s far too easy for government to start asking for more and more information to be mandatory invading privacy.

    Secondly, and in my opinion the biggest issue, is I wouldn’t trust government to defend my front lawn much less my most sensitive data. Granted, I doubt there is much anyone would gain from a cyber attack on Cayman, government knows next to nothing about cyber defence or has any structure in place to enforce breaches of information security.

    It’s a good start with e-government. Don’t mess it up.

  3. I agree with Mack 110% on his comment, I think that the Government should not go too Estonian with people’s privacy, and be controlled by one organization, and everyone else trying to get rich quick , because I have to think that there’s gonna be a lot of hacking going on in this system.

  4. The Department of Immigration of the Cayman Islands has already collected massive amounts of extremely private information (mind blowing amount in my opinion) especially of people seeking PR status. And they indeed have no structure in place to enforce breaches of information security. Just read this comment.

    Posted by Twyla Vargas on 12/3/2014 3:28:23 PM
    Mr Frank, I try to write about things I can back up, and yes in that filing room need some serious looking into; and yes I know of two instances where information was given to, a landscaping company, and another was concerning the marriage of a Caymanian and a foreigner. Both instances this information came from a filing clerk at the Immigration Department. I am not going to call names but persons in there need to clean dishes and serve coffee, and not be able to look at peoples files. I also would go as far as to agree with you that it seems to be an Island thing. I do not know what is wrong with some of these people that they cannot see people business and keep their mouth shut; and then they blame the foreigner for taking their job. I will split justice, and I will definitely not give my people right when they are wrong.

    Several investigations in relation to a number of allegation of misconduct by Immigration staff including CIO,director of boards and work permits and work permit secretary took place in the past. Some were dismissed due to insufficient evidence, others were called administrative in nature.Not sure what was the outcome of the Kimberley Davis case.
    Not until after very strong data protection laws are in place the Cayman Islands can proceed to e-government.
    Only 50,000 people including children reside in this country. Everyone has a driver’s license and or a passport. No need for an ID card.