By Hayley Axford
The Department of Home Affairs has announced a project which will make smart card IDs more accessible to citizens. This involves a partnership with major banks in South Africa, who will be facilitating the application and collection of smart IDs.
The smart ID card was launched on 18 July 2013, with the intention of eventually replacing the current green identity book. Smart IDs include fingerprint biometrics and biographic data security features which are embedded on an 80 kilobyte card chip. The initial rollout of the cards was challenging, as only 110 of the 403 Home Affairs offices countrywide had the “live capture system” required for processing the smart IDs. This resulted in long queues at these stations. Home Affairs has since said that by March this year, it expects 140 of its offices to be equipped with the new technology. Along with this, the department said that they were implementing a programme which would make their systems faster and more secure.
The Department’s Director General, Mkuseli Apleni, has said that over a million smart ID cards were issued in less than a year. “We are confident of reaching the target of 1.6 million cards by the end of 2014/2015 financial year,” said Apleni.
The announcement that South Africans would soon be able to get their smart IDs from major banks was made by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address earlier this month. This will be implemented through Home Affairs kiosks that are to be set up inside participating banks, where applications will be submitted and processed. At these kiosks, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said that an individual’s biometric photograph, automated fingerprint and electronic signature are “compiled into an electronic package and deposited to home affairs”.
First National Bank (FNB), Standard Bank and Nedbank have already signed a memorandum of understanding with the department, with the pilot project expected to begin in April this year. “We are quite excited about the fact that the banks accepted our request to partner with them. It will both lessen the pressure at our offices and increase our ability to utilize the infrastructure of the private sector as partners,” said Gigaba.
The Department also mentioned plans to incorporate the SA Post Office into the ID application project, as Gigaba noted that “it has the largest footprint and furthest reach, especially in rural areas”.
While ABSA has not signed a memorandum as of yet, the bank confirmed that together with other major banks and the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), it has engaged with the Department of Home Affairs on a number of occasions to discuss the rollout of smart IDs across the country.
First National Bank
FNB’s Head of Corporate Communications, Virginia Magapatona has confirmed that they have signed the memorandum of understanding with the Department of Home Affairs in relation to the processing of applications for smart ID cards. The bank did not wish to comment further as discussions are still underway.
Standard Bank has expressed their commitment to rolling out the smart ID initiative “as quickly as possible”. The bank has said that its existing customers will be able to apply for their new smart ID cards as of April 2015. Standard Bank is confident in the project as it noted that it was successful when it implemented a similar service to customers in Mozambique, in cooperation with the Mozambican government.
“As we are in a pilot phase, we will be starting the process with our Commercial and Business Banking customers as well as our Prestige and Private Banking customers. The pilot will run for six months, followed by a roll out to all customers”, said the bank’s Head of Retain Banking, Sibongiseni Ngundze.
Standard Bank has 650 branches nationwide.
Nedbank has confirmed that it has been approached by the Department of Home Affairs and says that it is currently assessing its infrastructure and processes to assist with the initiative. According to Brian Duguid, managing executive of the Nedbank Integrated Channels, “the bank has committed to a single pilot to test the requirements as set out in the proposed memorandum of understanding”.
Capitec has confirmed that it will not be involved in the smart ID initiative. “It is by no means an integrated system and therefore our fingerprint-biometric or other technology, whilst very advanced, would actually have no role to play,” noted Capitec.
Commenting on the department’s plans to have Home Affairs kiosks within banks, Capitec explained that their branches are sized to service its clients and therefore would not be able to provide extra floor space for the project. “All of our available space is utilized to service clients so as to run our operations as lean and efficient as possible. This is one of the factors that enables us to keep costs down and pass the benefit on to our clients through our low banking fees”, Capitec said.
The Department of Home Affairs has said that the cost of these smart card IDs will be R140.