The Tk1,379cr Smart National Identity Card (NID) project will expire in December after six years, with a whopping 87,553,342 cards left to distribute in just six months.
The cards, which require several pieces of biometric data including impressions of all ten fingers and iris scans, have garnered little traction with only 2.72% of them having being distributed nationwide.
Election Commission officials have said the number of voters in the country is about 100 million at present. A total 81,058,698 citizens got the laminated voter ID's for the first time eight years ago.
According to NID communication officer Ashik, about 2,446,658 Smart Cards have so far been distributed in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Kurigram, and Dashiya Chhora. Among them, 2,149,951 cards were distributed in Dhaka by June 10, a further 67,931 cards in Rajshai and 129,094 cards in Chittagong were distributed by 12 June and 99,682 cards in Kurigram and Dashiya Chhora were distributed earlier. As such, 87,553,342 cards are yet to be distributed.
EC secretariat Mohammad Abdullah said: “For Smart NID Card distribution, we need to use more iris and fingerprint scanning machines that we currently do not have. As of now, we are employing 2000 machines for iris scanning and another 2000 for fingerprint impressions.”
The Smart NID card distribution started on 02 August last year, after being inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The project, named Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) was undertaken with funding from the World Bank in 2011.
The smart card project was originally supposed to be completed by June last year, but the government was unable to begin distribution in the requisite time. As such, the World Bank had extended the deadline to this December.
Director General of IDEA Project Brig Gen Mohammad Saidul Islam,said: “The French company Oberthur Technologies (OT) has imported 45 million Blank Cards within the last 5 months on behalf of Bangladesh.
“It is hard but we are trying to improve project and go forward soon. We are trying to bring the blank cards quickly, as they need to be brought in from China and France.”
Brig Gen Mohammad Saidul also said that alternative Bangladeshi organisations would be considered should OT fail to provide the requisite cards in line with the December time frame.
The IDEA director general added that a lack of personalisation machines was also slowing down the project, with only 10 present in the country.
In addition, sources from a meeting between the Election Commission and a delegation of donor countries on Tuesday, June 20, said that a tender for the requisition of 2000 additional iris scanning machines and the same number of fingerprint machines was awaiting approval from the World Bank, as there was a lack of domestic funds for the purchase.
At the same meeting, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said that it was possible to complete smart NID distribution without the new machines, but the deadline would have to be extended once more.
Around 20 representatives from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, China, France, EU, Germany, India, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Turkey were a part of the delegation led by UN Resident Coordinator Robert De Watkinson.
The government says the smart NIDs are being issued as the older, laminated cards are easy to forge and there have been many cases of criminals making fake voter ID cards.
To maintain security of the smart cards, 25 international certifications and standards have been ensured. The microchips in the smart cards will contain all the information regarding a citizen, with three levels of security to prevent forgery. Only level one features are visible to the naked eye.
Card holders will be able to avail 22 types of services, including banking, TIN, driving license and passport.