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A new study by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) with the support of the Inter-American Bank (IDB) explores the implications of a national identification system for Jamaica and provides evidence to support the need for a universal national identification card, with an analysis on its potential economic value.

The think tank released the findings of its research at its first online web forum on October 27, 2020.

“More than 180,000 Jamaicans lack any form of identification at all, and so have no access to social programmes, remittance services and formal banking services. Some of these persons who lack such access are among Jamaica’s most vulnerable populations including the homeless and youths who are at risk of becoming unattached,” said Monique Graham, CAPRI Researcher, while presenting the findings of the research.

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion on key aspects of the implementation of a national identification system for Jamaica, where Ms. Graham was joined by Mr. Rodjé Malcolm, Executive Director at Jamaicans for Justice and Dr. Javier Preciozzi, an International Independent ICT Consultant.

The discussion addressed misconceptions surrounding the legal inconsistencies with the original National Identification and Registration (NIR) Act as well as recommendations for a universal identification system in Jamaica. The recommendations were as follows:
• Citizens should be encouraged and incentivized to enrol in a universal ID system when it is promulgated by the government. Some benefits will be self-evident, but broader economic benefits will be less obvious and should be explained.
• The system should have strong incentives for enrollment in order for widespread adoption to take place. A voluntary-based system void of incentives will not achieve steady adoption.
• In requiring biometric and biographic information, legislation must enforce the least intrusive methods necessary to achieve widespread adoption and maximum benefit.
• The first phase of the system should issue the identification to social welfare beneficiaries. The ID will facilitate the interoperability of welfare databases and will help to increase the effectiveness of programmes by ensuring that the intended beneficiaries are reached.
• The second phase should target public sector workers because they can be used as a pilot. The third phase can expand to the rest of the citizenry and permanent residents.
• Persons who this ID will benefit the most are the most unreachable, so integrating identification enrolment with the upcoming census will help to capture these persons and give them the opportunity of registering for the ID immediately.