Minister of Industry Innovation and Science and Technology, Davidson Ishmael, has described as “irresponsible and reprehensible” a circulating WhatsApp voice note denouncing the Trident National ID card.
The message claims that the Government is seeking to infringe on the rights of its citizens and is involved in spying on them. The Minister maintained that there is absolutely no truth at all to this and he expressed his disappointment with those who would seek to infer that the digital ID system is being used for unethical activities.
The Minister described the allegation that the Government is charging Barbadians for the new ID as blatantly untrue. He asserted that the ID card is free; however, if you lose your card, you are required to pay a fee to have it replaced.
“The same thing happens right now with our current ID card. Indeed, the cost of the replacement has increased and whilst the pricing for this is set by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission, I believe this reflects the cost of the new card and the processing that is required to invalidate the old card and issue a new card.”
He stressed that the card is a passive card and is essentially the same as your bank cards which contain the same chip and pin technology.
“It contains no power source so unless it is inserted into a reader or tapped on a terminal, it cannot transmit anything, it cannot do anything on its own. The QR code or the Machine-Readable Zone can only be read if you present them to someone to be read – which is actually why they are on the back of the card, not the front. Therefore, the card holder is in full control.”
The Minister noted that the QR code is something that some misinformed people seek to use in conspiracy theories. He explained that the ‘Q’ and the ‘R’ stand for Quick Response.
“It is simply a way of encoding information that devices can read quickly. It saves time because the card holder would not have to type out any information. The QR code on our new ID card simply takes you to a website where information can be verified,” he said.
In relation to a suggestion that has been made that there is some kind of link between the Trident ID card and purported technology allegedly contained within COVID-19 vaccines, the Minister refutes this reckless claim as absolutely baseless. “There is no link here whatsoever,” he stressed.
Mr. Ishmael emphasized that the card has one purpose only, that is, to make citizens’ lives easier. “Sometimes we need to step back and understand what identification has done for Barbados. There are a number of other islands in the Caribbean that have never had a proper ID card system. Some of us take it for granted that we can walk into a bank or any business or government office and just by showing an ID card prove who we are. That does not happen in other places. You have to get someone to vouch for you – you have no simple way of proving who you are.
“Our government is now building on that system that we have had in place for 40 years and which almost everyone in the country has agreed needed to be upgraded. We are taking it to the next level. Just a couple of days ago, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) published a report called the Digital Nation Survey. In this report more than two out of three people in Caribbean are fully in favor of Government providing digital services. Eighty-seven per cent said that they would be more likely to use digital services provided by government if government would incorporate new technologies to improve these services. This is what the government is doing,” he explained.
He further stated, “We are doing two things here: the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is replacing the current ID card with a new, more secure and digitally capable ID card; and on top of that, we are introducing a Mobile Digital ID. Certainly, there will be a new ID card. However, you can use your new ID card in exactly the same way you have always used your ID card.”
The Minister pointed out that people could choose to never put it in a machine or never tap it on a reader – that is their choice. He concluded, “Our job as a government is to bring you new ways of doing things that are easier, faster and safer with the Digital ID, and once you are comfortable, you can onboard to the Mobile ID at any time – the choice is yours.”