THE team examining the national identification system (NIDS) is warm to the idea of having citizens’ national identification number (NIN) linked to their taxpayers registration number (TRN), whenever the National Identification and Registration Act (NIRA) is approved.
According to project director for the National Identification Systems (NIDS) Team, Warren Vernon, the team is considering a unique NIN, “you will always have to look at an universal approach and one that will cover the entire population”.
Jamaica also has to consider looking at what is happening now, and how it can leverage what is happening, he said, noting that the TRN is more widely used than passport or Electoral Office of Jamaica data.
“The bigger issue is to establish a unique identification, because once you establish a unique identification, what you are going to find is that all of government, irrespective of the entities, will be able to adopt and utilise this unique identification. It is for that reason that the TRN is so widely used,” Vernon explained.
Speaking at a recent virtual meeting of the joint select committee (JSC) reviewing the NIRA, Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck confirmed that the feeling of the team, during recent discussions with technical experts at Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), was that there was no good reason why the TRN could not be used to generate the NIN.
Chuck said that the use of the TRN number is also consistent with the fact that it is used on driver’s licences and, in all the circumstances, it may very well be that the logo, whether it be the NIN or TRN, would be the same number that every individual could use whether as the NIN or for a driver’s licence, or for transactions dealing with the Government.
They were responding to a suggestion from Opposition member of the JSC, Peter Bunting, who said that he was not sure how adopting the TRN’s systems would resolve the problem of individuals having only one identity number on the system.
“We know that the TRN is not a sound system in the sense that persons have more than one TRN number over the years. It seems to me, if we are going to adopt the number from a system that exists, they should do it from a system such as the EOJ’s, which does cross matching of fingerprints, or PICA (Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency) which has facial recognition software that avoids duplication, or catches a duplication, rather than adopting a system which has only the benefit of not repeating a number,” Bunting said.
Chuck said that the importance of the NIN is that it is a unique number that cannot be repeated, once there is a particular algorithm generating it.
“So to the extent that the TRN has that unique feature, it is useful in the sense that the TRN is widely used, not only for business transactions, but for driver’s licences, and we see the possibility of an individual having just one national number for NIN, TRN and drivers’ licence,” Chuck said.
Vernon said that in relation to section eight of the Bill, which deals areas of cooperation between the authority and public bodies, it would be centred around the verification of source documents, such as the TRN, to ensure that it was in fact issued by the TAJ, as well as to ensure whether the name and the date of birth are also matching.
He said, however, that the challenge which the NIDS Team will face is that there will be cases where a TRN presented to NIDS is considered could carry the name and date of birth which may not match what is on the birth certificate.
“Naturally, we would have to take what is on the birth certificate. But, operationally, procedures in a TAJ/NIDS situation could easily resolve all of those issues,” Vernon said.
He also noted that there will also be opportunities across government and private sector which will create similar opportunities for verification.
“When you look at the TRN database versus the NIDS database, there will always be unique, because of the algorithms and the algorithms won’t generate the same number twice. Similarly, on the NIDS side, a system is being designed to only store a number once. We call it the ‘primary key’ It can only be in the database,” he noted.
“However, if you look at the TRN database, because of the nature of the design, we cannot guarantee that the individual is unique. We can only guarantee that the number is unique. But when you look at the NIDS database we would be able to guarantee that,” he added.