Amidst an umpteenth number of urgent issues crisis-ridden Sri Lanka, the cabinet decided on Monday to prioritize digitalizing the personal identification process.
India has agreed to provide a grant to Sri Lanka to implement a ‘Unitary Digital Identity framework’, apparently modelled on the Aadhaar card. The Hindu reported. Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identity number that can be obtained voluntarily by the citizens of India and resident foreign nationals who have spent over 182 days in twelve months immediately preceding the date of application for enrolment, based on their biometric and demographic data.
“Under the proposed Unitary Digital Identity Framework, it is expected to introduce a personal identity verification device based on biometric data, a digital tool that can represent the identities of individuals in cyberspace, and the identification of individual identities that can be accurately verified in digital and physical environments by combining the two devices,” a media statement released by the Department of Government Information on Tuesday noted.
The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2011 attempted to introduce digital identity cards proposing to sell them to the younger generation that would newly apply for identity cards. The plan was dropped but attempted to be brought back by the 2015-19 ‘Good Governance.’ Leftist groups and the parties concerned with data security and privacy protested the attempt and the government withdrew its effort.
The government’s interest in issuing digital and other cards is considered a breeding ground for corruption through kickbacks. In May 2021, Minister of Sports and son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa talked about a digital vaccination card but it did not materialize.
Although Sri Lanka has prioritized digitalizing personal identification, the country amidst dollar scarcity has severely restricted the import of digital devices such as computers and mobile phones branding them as luxury items.