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Who needs cards after all?

Week 10, 2010

Comparable projects have already been carried out, but to a much lesser scale. The Turkish government implemented a national ID database which forms the backbone of the country’s e-government infrastructure. In Turkey, the Central Civil Registration System, or MERNIS database houses more than 130 million personal data files managed by 11,000 civil servants in relation with more than 800 public bodies. The consolidated database allowed the creation of unique Turkish Republic Identity (ID) Number for every citizen. And the MERNIS number is printed on the National ID Card.

Many other countries have implemented a National Identification Number. The best known example is the US Social Security Number, which is used for numerous purposes besides Social Security, such as opening a bank account, obtaining a credit card or a driving license. On the other hand, some countries have outlawed such universal numbers. For instance, in Hungary, the Constitutional Court decided in 1991 a universal identification number was unconstitutional.

So, one may think establishing a large population database with unique identifiers is enough to reach a high level of eGovernment, and bring modern services to citizens. But once universal ID numbers are devised, government usually need a convenient method to make these numbers available to their owners and the bodies they interact with. Such method needs to be portable, personalizable and secure. In other terms, a smart card. Registering the population and issuing national ID numbers is most often part of a national ID scheme. There is no doubt, the Indian government will soon be in need of issuing a personalizable portable document to its 1.15 billion citizens. Even if it is not yet announced the Indian UID project will be one of the largest ID card project in the world.

Thierry Spanjaard

Chief Editor

Smart Insights Weekly