Government calls on businesses to extend ID card use

The government has called on business to come up with ideas on how to extend the use of identity cards and to speed up their roll-out.

The government has called on business to come up with ideas on how to extend the use of identity cards and to speed up their roll-out.

Home Office minister Meg Hillier said new technology would allow the national ID card to be used for new applications, similar to iPhones. She said there was "no reason" not to use the Sim card in mobile phones in some way to verify a person's identity.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) was talking to business forums about new uses for the ID card. "We want to hear from (businesses) how to get them off the ground," she said.

Hillier said the IPS had received 13,000 applications for ID cards, and issued 7,000. She said 21,000 had applied online, and more than 60,000 application packs had been printed.

She acknowledged delays in setting up appointments for applicants to be interviewed, but said these were being addressed.

The IPS had scrapped the idea of using the Department for Welfare and Pensions (DWP) database to collect and store ID card data, Hillier said.

Kevin Sheehan, IPS's director of documents services, told Computer Weekly that the department had decided to build its own database, the National Identity Assurance Service (NIAS). This had always been the backup plan, he said.

IPS had contracted IBM, at a cost of £300m, to build it. It would store the data items listed "on the face of the (National Identity Card) act," Sheehan said. These included the visible data on the ID card such as name and birth date as well as a digital image of the holder's face and signature, and images of all 10 fingerprints.

He added that, if it were legal, the government would share NIAS data with the DWP to corroborate information about individuals. This could help to cut the £3bn a year the DWP loses to identity fraud and error.

The NIAS would also share or verify information with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to confirm travellers' rights to enter and work in the UK. This was also a key benefit to employers, who were under a legal obligation to check such status, he said.

Hillier said the next phase of the roll-out would extend to the north-east and Midlands of England. She said the government was making a special effort to enrol the 20% of citizens who did not now have a formal identity. These included children between 16 and 18, some old people, travellers, and deprived people.

Without a formal identity these people would find it increasingly difficult to access the government and private sector services to which they were entitled, she said.

On 7 April 2009, the IPS awarded two contracts, one to Computer Sciences Corporation, the other to IBM, worth £385m and £265m respectively.

CSC's contract was to upgrade IPS' application and enrolment system, while IBM's was to continue existing UKBA fingerprinting capabilities and to build and run the NIAS database.

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