Biometric data collection for Digital ID of all Bhutanese to commence from January next year

Digital Identity (ID) is one of the main results focused under the main Digital Drukyul Flagship Program of Nu 2.557 bn as the fund also covers results such as Institutionalizing e-Patient Information System, creating Digital Schools, Integrating e-business services (business licensing and Single window for trade), Land records, tax information etc.

Citing some examples of what benefits people can expect with the completion of the Digital ID Lobzang Jamtsho, Chief ICT Officer, Application Development Division, Department of Technology and Telecom (DITT) under Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) said stated, “Currently the online processes are hybrid in nature, where although we communicate or negotiate online, people still need to be physically present to sign a contract or make online transactions.”

He said that with the use of Digital ID, one can have bank transactions or even sign up contracts remotely to state a few components that the program encapsulates.

The paper found that the biggest advantage of the Digital ID of the person is that all the information of the person will be stored and based around the Digital ID of the person. This could be health records, land records, tax records, revenue and bank records, business records, education records, census records etc.

The person can use his digital ID to access all this information and also use his ID to complete online procedures to avail services.

To protect the privacy of the person access to the information will be compartmentalized and restricted so some tax officials for example cannot access the health records of a person.

A key component of digital ID is collecting the biometric details of people like eyes and all finger prints for verification and security.

Lobzang Jamtsho said that the digital identity is basically a digital credential record system which can be used to authenticate and prove the identity of either a registered Bhutanese citizen or an expat.

He said, “So far there are only two validating materials; for citizens it is their national citizenship documents and for the foreign workers or visitors the information stored with the immigration office.”

He stated that with digital identity in place citizens will have multiple modal system where they can be verified and their identities authenticated using the biometrics which will be collected in the upcoming year.

He added, “We are currently planning to engage the dessups in the collection of citizenship biometrics requiring each person to register 10 finger print, palm print, facial recognition and identity data.”

According to the Chief ICT Officer, the current plan is to pilot the dessups to first gather the biometrics for Thimphu Dzongkhag in order to understand the efficiency of the collection process.

He added that with the latest technological trends and advancement, finger print alone cannot always make out a person’s identity therefore there is a need for a multi-modal system.

The piloting process is due to commence by January next year and if the process goes well enough for Thimphu Dzongkhag, then the same will be carried out for the rest of the nation’s population which could span for a year long period.

He said that since the digital Identity is a big project under the flagship program, there will be mass awareness programs before the commencement of the information gathering process. The biometric collection is planned to be done for all people above 5 years of age.

 He said that once the system sufficiently gathers database with the RGoB, there will be pro-active benefits for people to look forward to.

He said, “Instead of citizens having to apply for the services, they will be notified if they are eligible for any benefit or services.”

He added, “Major activities are going on in terms of determining the credentials to be gathered and one could be qualification or employability of a person among other subsequent parts which will come up.”

He added that the team working with the Druk Holding Investments (DHI) are now gearing up to work towards achieving that but to enhance other services fundamentally there has to be strong individual identification

He said, “Based on that the root-trust is to be created for instance any agency trying to verify an official will be able to track down a person’s identity using the system.”

 Lobzang added, “COVID-19 has given us quite a unique situation or a condition as movement of citizens are limited and most of the Bhutanese citizens are within the country at this time.”

He said that this is an ideal time to collect the biometrics with a little effort at this time which would have futuristic benefits for the nation.

Reportedly, for the citizens who are studying or working abroad they will not be called back to the country for registering their biometrics, instead, they can register on the next visit by consulting the home ministry.

He said that DHI are building competencies providing technological solutions and they will be delivering technology which can be used online, and as for DITT, they would be ensuring to make internal arrangements and other things in the preparation of the technology adoption.

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