New ID system on the way: South Africa’s citizen identification system is undergoing a digital revamp, with the intention of spurring economic growth and enhancing service delivery and security for citizens and expatriates in the country.
Planned for operational launch in March 2024, the National Identity System (NIS) will replace the current National Population Register, and essentially become the new core of all Home Affairs functions in South Africa.
The country’s current ID system, which has its roots as far back as the 1950s, has seen several modifications over the past decades – notably the switchover from the old green bar-coded ID books to new Smart ID Cards in 2013.
New ID system an economic enabler
In official communication from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in late 2020, the department indicates that its expectations are that the new system will ultimately trigger economic transformation by boosting digital transactions for both government and business.
The key elements of the DHA’s identity management system are as follows:
- Single digital population register of all people who live and have lived in the country.
- Biometric-based NIS that enables a single view of a person, e-government and e-commerce.
- Policy that provides for a constitutionally sound framework to manage personal information that will be collected and stored in the NIS.
- Legislation that establishes clear rules to govern accessing and processing the population register records in line with relevant policies and legislation such as the POPI Act and Cybercrimes Bill.
New ID system a digital boon
In the latest Home Affairs Yearbook by the Government Communication and Information System, DHA writes that it is “In the process of implementing a single integrated source of biographic and biometric information – to make digital service delivery a seamless reality”.
The department says the system will merge historically disjointed records and systems, resulting in far-reaching benefits for the country at large. “The current disparate civic and immigration systems will produce secure data that will feed into the NIS according to an identity management policy and an updated identification Act.
“All processes – the registration of births, marriages and deaths – will be digitised and secured. The successful implementation of the NIS will lead to a substantial reduction in fraudulent transactions; and enable efficient e-government and e-commerce services.”
The NIS is a major part of the DHA’s ICT Modernisation Programme, which was initiated in 2012 to “overhaul the department’s core business applications, technology infrastructure, and overall operations for improved service delivery”.
- GCIS – South Africa Yearbook 2020/2021 Home Affairs
- Department of Home Affairs – Media statement on Public Service ICT Award for Home Affairs
- Wikipedia – South African identity card
- South African Government website – The Identification Act 68 of 1997
- Business Tech – South Africa is getting a new ID system: How it will work
- Biometric Update – New biometric digital ID system in South Africa to enhance service delivery, security
- pbVerify – Home Affairs ID Verification