Government plans electronic identification system

Proving one’s identity may soon become much easier for Caymanians. Government is currently working on consolidating disparate data sets across all departments. The exercise will enable the introduction of a secure digital identity as early as next year, with a potential populationwide rollout of electronic identity cards in about three years, according to government officials.

Speaking at the Cayman Islands Digital Economy Conference on Thursday, Premier Alden McLaughlin said electronic identification may be the answer to the complexities of proving that someone is Caymanian for employment, voting rights or certain social benefits.

“Having to prove that you are Caymanian can be onerous, and having to do it over and over when changing jobs for instance can be annoying to say the least,” he said. “So, it is important that we find some way to solve this issue and it is thought that by using a digital identification, where one’s status as a Caymanian is proven for once and all and linked to your digital ID, is likely the best solution to this problem.”

Potentially this electronic identification will also serve as a voter ID, driver’s license and identity card, the premier added.

“Indeed, it could serve as a citizen’s access to all government services, including healthcare at the local hospital, or perhaps access to social care. The potential, we believe, is great,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Digital identification is part of a wider effort to expand government’s electronic services.

Ian Tibbetts, the director of e-government, noted at the conference the secure access and digital identity components of Cayman’s e-government infrastructure are currently subject to ongoing procurement.

“It is not just a plan or a discussion anymore,” he said, but the technology components are coming together.

This will give government the tools to consolidate all the necessary base data for a digital ID system that is now stored in separate, unconnected databases across various departments.

The director of e-government said having an electronic identity card is just one aspect; the more important part is the underlying base data. In the last general election in Cayman, for example, the voter registration process consisted of one year of data validation. Current work is based on the voter registration list to get a consolidated view that will support the electronic identification.

Mr. Tibbetts predicts that government “will be ready to introduce an e-ID some time in 2019.”

But this is only the technical readiness, which is independent from the right timing from a policy perspective, he noted.

“It is reasonable to expect us [to be] in that position in two to three years,” he said.

Plans to roll out an ID card to Cayman’s population can take between 18 months and three years, with three years being a more reasonable time frame both in terms of time and costs, he added.

Recently, government’s digital efforts focused more on the needs of business with new digital services for company registration, lands registration and immigration purposes. New digital initiatives involving the management of trade and business licenses are also under way.

For individual citizens, new digital services have brought the ability to apply online for driver and motor vehicle licensing and police clearance certificates. About 36 percent of police clearance applications are now made online.

An electronic identification and secure access to government services will drive new digital government services related to identity and citizenship, as well as new processes for business licensing and around property transactions, Mr. Tibbetts said.

Premier McLaughlin noted that many people do not have the time to drive to a government office, find parking and then stand in line to pay for a service or a particular tax or fee.

“There is a valid expectation that government will make this as easy for them to do as possible,” he said.