Jordan’s eID scheme opens up new possibilities

Jordan’s Ministry of ICT partnered with Gemalto to create new e-Identity Cards that are supporting new digital services for citizens in the Kingdom

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Jordan’s eID scheme opens up new possibilities HE Mrs Majd Shweikeh, Minister of ICT for Jordan, says that the ID card program allows the government to deploy new digital solutions in future.
By  Mark Sutton Published  May 12, 2018

In 2016, Jordan began the roll out of a new citizen ID program, with the aim of replacing paper ID documents with a modern ID card. The overall aim for the project was to improve security, combat identity fraud, and create a reliable infrastructure that will support future e-government services.

Leading the program was the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (MoICT), with the Civil Status and Passports Department (CSPD) responsible for the implementation.

“For the Kingdom of Jordan, improving security, slashing ID fraud and creating a trusted infrastructure for online access are all high priorities on the agenda,” said HE Mrs Majd Shweikeh, Minister of Information, Communication and Technology. “The new Jordan eID card will strengthen the infrastructure required for digital signature and will enable the addition of new e-government Services onto the card when they are available.”

In order to achieve these goals, the ministry turned to Gemalto, a company that has worked with governments across the world, already deploying 40 successful national eID solutions in various markets.

Gemalto provided a comprehensive solution for identity issuance and authentication systems, along with the cards themselves. At the heart of the scheme is the new Jordan ID card, which utilises a Gemalto polycarbonate card. The credit card-sized card, which includes a data chip, has been issued to citizens over the age of 18 to replace the old civil identification documents.

The card itself has number of physical and digital features. The physical card has high standards of durability and resistance to counterfeiting and tampering. The embedded microprocessor means that the Jordanian eID can incorporate much more information about the holder. Furthermore, not all of it needs to be actually printed on the card itself; more sensitive information, including the holder’s religion, can be housed in the microprocessor alone.

Currently, 18 data fields are being used. However, further fields are available, reserved for future services such as driver license data, social security number, fingerprints and a digital signature that will offer holders the potential to formally authorize contracts and other agreements via mobile and online channels. Significantly, the new eID will enable such services to be rolled out in the field; the need to change identity cards at a future date is eliminated.

Issuing of the new cards began in June 2016, with over one million cards issued in the first year, and over three million citizens presented with cards to the start of this year.

Ahmad Khalafat, Regional Director for Government Programs at Gemalto Middle East, explained that Jordanian authorities established an enrolment and issuance infrastructure which is optimized for convenience and accessibility for users.

“Gemalto has supplied a comprehensive suite of tools that allow citizens to have their personal details and biometric data captured in 100 civil registry and passport offices. This infrastructure also enables cards to be personalized and issued at 25 dedicated centres nationwide. Personal details are laser engraved into the card, and stored within the microprocessor, providing a combination of digital and graphical security features that enable officials to reliably verify the identity of the holder,” Khalafat said.

The card has delivered a number of benefits to holders. Authentication processes can be conducted just using the card, so as a result, a wide range of official administrative procedures that require robust proof of identity can now be conducted more quickly, securely and efficiently — delivering benefits for service providers and end users alike. In applications such as customs, officials can check that the photo on the microprocessor also matches the holder, providing an additional layer of protection against the threat of fraud. Gemalto has provided an Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) which provides another means of verifying the identity of the card holder.

The card is also acting as an online access control, for government e-services. The applications take place remotely and therefore require a computer, a card and an Internet connection. Just like with physical access control, it is important to be able to filter access to certain Internet sites, applications and databases. The benefits are simplification and ease of use with a reduction in the number of means of identification, increased Internet security, and better protection for minors.

The solution also provides the flexibility to expand with new features, and for the government to seamlessly add new applications after issuance. As a result, it can leverage on initial investment and develop new secure eGov services and applications at its own pace.

Khalaft said that the identity program creates a foundation for future e-government services.

“In designing and implementing the country’s new eID scheme, the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (MoICT) has put in place firm foundations for a truly transformative program in the years ahead. Every step of the way, the new eID will play a key role in facilitating the many benefits of digitalization,” he said.

“Alongside longer term aspirations, the deployment of eID in Jordan also aims to address a series of immediate and pressing challenges; notably these include the need to enhance security, strengthen immigration controls and minimize the risk of electoral fraud. For the MoICT, the new eID therefore had to combine flexible and future-proof characteristics with the ability to deliver swiftly on some of the most significant and serious issues currently faced by the government and people of Jordan,” Khalafat explained.

One of the most interesting possibilities in the ID scheme is that the ID card reinforces the infrastructure required for digital signature and makes it possible to introduce new online paperless services. All of the different official acts to which citizens put their written signatures to today can now be authenticated and signed electronically.

By successfully empowering citizens with the ability to provide irrefutable proof of identity, Jordan is now placed to accelerate the all-important process of digitalization.

Furthermore, the country has also put itself within a wider, rapidly growing global trend, as progressive governments worldwide recognise the power of eID to respond quickly to the challenges and opportunities created by an ever changing political, social and economic environment.

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