Nepali Times
ID-ing Nepal


In a week, the pilot phase of a voter registration project compiling a new voter list with photographs and fingerprints will be complete. Each voter will be given a unique identification number, which will be used to deter false voting, detect and remove duplicate registrations and manage the internal migration of voters.

This also means we will be moving closer to a National ID (NID) card system. The voter list will include not just eligible voters but also citizens between the age of 16 and 18 in order to create a national civil registration list.

Inspired by similar schemes in neighbouring countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, the government introduced a provision for the creation of NID in the last budget. "It's a matter of providing an identity card for citizens," says Hari Prasad Nepal, joint secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. "We can prevent fraud and duplication if we have a central depository for such data."

By the end of the fiscal year the Ministry for Home Affairs, which oversees the NID project, aims to issue cards on a voluntary basis in the pilot area. Initially the card will act as a voter identification card. "Eventually, we aim to make it a multi-purpose card and it can be used to hold information about property ownership, driving licenses and criminal records," Nepal says. "People can access various public services using the same card."

The Ministry has yet to draw up a plan to implement the use of NID and draft laws that will govern the use of these cards. However, the reaction to the NID card has been one of both relief and concern.

In the wake of Jamim Shah's murder in February, Nepal Police blamed its slow progress on the lack of a national database. "The government needs to create a database with personal information on citizens in order to assist police investigations," Rajendra Singh Bhandari of the Crime Investigation Department says.

FILL THE BLANKS: Nepali Times' graphic approximation of what the ID might look like

Many countries including Spain, Germany and France use a multi-purpose national identity card. But such cards have been vehemently opposed in the United Kingdom and Australia over questions about its effectiveness in fighting crime, as well as privacy and civil liberty concerns.

A study by human rights watchdog Privacy International found "claims of police abuse by the way of the cards in virtually all countries" that use cards. Following concerns over national security in the recent Machine Readable Passport (MRP) debacle, anxiety about privacy is not far behind here. "We will have to pay special attention to how the data is stored and protected," warns Dinesh Thapa of Privacy Nepal.

Since the NID card entitles access to public services, there are additional concerns about the cost of lost or stolen cards and how it might affect those who can't afford them. It will also require citizens to update the national database as and when events such as births and deaths take place. A special effort may be needed to make sure everyone has access to such facilities.

The National Election Commission will complete its data collection next year, but it is still unclear when the NID cards will be introduced nationwide. For starters, the Home Ministry needs to present draft legislation on NID cards in parliament. In the meantime, it is worth investigating all these concerns, to determine whether we actually want, or need, a national identity card.

1. npal
well, the real question missed here is which ngo is bagging dollars and who is getting big comission to run such programs. no nepali karmachari has any incentive to come up with such scheme.

2. Anil Pandit
I vehemently oppose national ID card. It is intrusion to privacy of sovereign citizens. As mentioned by the government official, they will use to track people's property  and other sensitive information, I am concerned that there is more chance of these information being abused by government officials. It will also make government more tyrannical and selectively target the citizens who oppose the government or government official.
This is a precursor of police state.

In countries like Nepal, there will be a big black market. We recently heard news about Passports being sold by government officials. There will be big black market on erasing personal information in ID cards or getting duplicate ID cards and there will be politicians who will be trading ID cards like they did for citizenship certificates.

I think we should try our best to limit the government away from our personal lives and property. Government is a parasite that lives on labor of citizen through taxes and inflation. Big government is big parasite because it needs to more money for funding by the people. Big government will provide more power to the corrupt politicians who will be dreaming for more power at the cost of individual freedom.

Prosperity comes from civil liberty, free market, sound monetary system and personal liberty.

I ask question to every one: "In the entire history of human race, can any one cite any example that shows government has invented or discovered any thing, any politicians ?

Inventions, discoveries and development comes from private sectors or individual.  

The main problem with Nepal is big government  and this ID card system is one more step towards big government, red tape and waste of money.

3. Privacy Network India
It is quite surprising that Nepal leaders should point to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh countries as examples to follow, insofar as national identity cards are concerned. In these countries, police detection processes are rapidly giving way to untrained and incomplete reliance on technology, no matter whether the latter is tried and tested, or not. 

In India, for instance, the police are charged with providing identity support to passport applicants. Unfortunately, even major police stations are not equipped with computers and data communications (they do, however, have telephones, and every policeman sports a cellphone, some of which are quite fancy), so the procedure is unwieldy and prone to failure. 

In crime detection, the situation is similar. Without data communications, there is absolutely no value to 'national fingerprint' databases and other invasive and intrusive biometrically bottomless money pits. It is always possible to find some policeman or the other who will laud some new technology, but ask the same person to chalk out a program (with costs and timelines) for deployment, and listen hard to the silence. 

Ask a technologist (Mr Nilekani, the head of India's UID authority, is one such) and you will hear a rapidly spoken reply. On translation, it boils down to the fact that each and every department hoping to make use of the UID will have to pay for its own (so far not even guesstimated) implementation programs - an easy (if definitely shady) way to invoke a giant project quickly without approaching the Finance Ministry for a budget, or indeed any public debate at all. Such giant projects carry the charming American name of boondoggle, which certainly gives a clean sound to a very dirty practice.

4. jange
How about getting a constitution first?

5. Privacy Nepal

ID card's main objective is to make survelienve eacy for the government. As there will be all the information of the ID holder is in the Card. It may contain photo, finger print, faull name, parents name, Serial No, Date of Birth, Address, issue date, religion, ses, physical characteristic, banking details, driving license ETC. ETC and will contain Magnetic Stripe or bar code.

It is probably good to have multi function ID card but the social cost it too great. Data storage and protection is the huge concern. And the access to data is also a big concern. Very litle is done on preparation of introducing ID card in Nepal but one thing is sure that the Privacy of the people of Nepal should not be at risk at any cost.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)