New national identity card initiated by the Department of Home Affairs
With a population of over 60 million, RSA is a multi-ethnic democratic nation.
During apartheid, compulsory passbooks were issued to all black citizens over 16.
They were utilized for contracts or almost all interactions with the administration. They also contained driving licenses and firearm permits.
Non-white citizens were always required to carry the "dompas" (dumb pass), allowing them to live and work in specified parts of the country.
Not having the book would result in arrest and expulsion to reserves.
Designed to segregate the population, it became one of the most hated symbols of apartheid.
In 1994, the new democracy willing to restore dignity for black citizens decided to issue the green book to all citizens.
The green barcoded identity book proves identification, such as by applying for a driver's license or passport, voter ID authentication, and opening a bank account.
However, fraud and theft have made the paper book increasingly insecure for individuals and the authorities.
The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) implemented a new national identity card as part of a significant national investment in technology modernization.
Enhanced identity theft protection with the new national ID card
Following research into federal eID programs implemented by governments worldwide, the DHA opted for an eID card - for its high level of security and advanced data-protection mechanisms.
Two means of authentication are implemented:
An embedded secure software with its microprocessor securely contains identification details and ensures only authorized authorities can read and verify the card's data using contactless readers.
This biometric identification in the SA identity card makes it virtually impossible to duplicate the national identity card. For the first time, this ensures that citizens can be securely authenticated to their citizen eID card.
SA national identity card: main features
- Embedded microprocessor to securely store citizen's data, including digital photographs and fingerprints
- Encryption keys to enable identification and verification of cardholders via contactless technology based on international standards
- Visual security printing features to protect against forgery.
- Highly durable polycarbonate ID card body
Global and local expertise for a phased rollout
Following a pilot in 2012, the new South African smart ID card was launched on 18 July 2013, with a phased rollout over five to seven years.
For 2017 and 2018, more than 5.5m identity cards have been issued by the Government Printing Works (GPW) through enrolment in some 27 regional offices across the country.
More offices will be equipped to perform live data capture as rollout ramps nationally over the next years.
Thales was chosen to provide the new national ID cards based on its secure embedded software technology, computerized card expertise, and ability to deliver durable polycarbonate eID documents within an ambitious schedule and a long-established presence in Johannesburg.
GPW uses Thales' secure embedded software to protect the holder's image and biometric data within the secure identity card, delivering outstanding integrity and privacy levels.
South African ID card designed for fraud protection
Today, the high-end national identity card, equipped with contactless capability, brings added convenience and security for citizens.
The highly durable polycarbonate eID card is specifically designed for ID fraud protection.
The "Match on Card" feature allows fingerprints to be checked locally using the eID card's microprocessor. It ensures the citizen's information never leaves the ID card and does not require any central database connection.
This a great answer to the SA citizen's privacy.
Smart ID cards at banks
South Africans can apply for their smart ID cards at local banks following the eChannel program's launch by President Jacob Zuma in April 2016. The first partners are Absa, First National Bank, Nedbank, and Standard Bank.
The South African smart ID online application process, initially limited to people aged between 30 and 35, is now being extended by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).
The introduction of the online application portal is part of its strategy to move services from paper to digital and eliminate lengthy queues at its offices.
What's the story here?
As an Absa blog post explains, the process brings convenience and speed: "Remember how it used to take hours of queuing and around 54 days to get your green barcoded ID book? Those days are gone; it will take you less than 30 minutes to get an Absa branch. Within 12 days, you can collect your Smart ID card."
The participating smart ID and passport bank branches as of January 2018 are listed here.
Improving future government services to citizens
The new South African smart ID infrastructure offers the opportunity to facilitate additional e-government services as part of RSA's modernization ambition thanks to 2 features:
- The national eID card supports public key infrastructure (PKI), so key for strong authentication.
- Its PIN code and biometric match-on-card authentication techniques enable easy verification of identification.
They create a future-proof platform capable of providing a broad range of secure online services such as online and in-person authentication and legally binding digital signatures. Government departments of transport, health, and social development are also looking at exploiting the National ID card functionality.
With this ambitious national identity program, RSA joins the growing number of countries that have turned to eID programs for more reliable identification and authentication methods for better citizen security and convenience.
South African smart is key to government services
- Reduce identity fraud and theft
- One single national ID card for all South African citizens
- Future platform for a suite of eGovernment services, including online authentication and digital signatures
Smart ID benefits for South African citizens
- Eliminates the need to carry multiple ID documents
- Improves confidence in official identity credentials
- Speeds identity checks at border crossings
- Establishes citizenship in the National Population Register for voting and other civic interactions
- The eID system forms part of several initiatives to improve the security and delivery of government services to RSA citizens.
- Enhancing security through the creation of a reliable National Population Register
- Ensuring that all 16-year-olds apply for and receive the new national identity card.
- Supporting national security by establishing secure, efficient, and reliable ports of entry through e-visa issuing, Trusted Traveller Program, and Enhanced Electronic Movement Control System.
Discover the benefits of secure eIDs in our web dossiers on digital dividends.
Learn more on RSA's official identity management policy
Learn more on contactless transport cards in South Africa.