Apparently set to miss the existing Dec-2017 deadline to provide the country's all voters with smart national identity (NID) cards, the Election Commission now says it will do it by June 2018.
Though the EC started the distribution of machine readable cards to replace the existing laminated ones among 90 million voters in October 1, 2016 initially, it distributed only 2.86 percent of 10-digit smart cards in nine months till June 2017.
The Commission blamed French digital security company, 'Oberthur Technologies' for the little progress in the distribution process as the company failed to provide 90 million high security featured smart cards in time.
The EC signed a contract with the company in January 2015 for the production and distribution of 90 million smart NID cards by June 2016.
But the deadline was subsequently extend till June 2017 as the company failed to send smart NID cards after personalising those to upazila and thana election offices across the country within the first deadline.
Within the extended deadline of June 2017, the French company sent some 70 million blank cards. Of the cards, the company personalised only 12.41 million cards and supplied 10.98 million to thana and upazila election offices.
Following the insignificant progress, the Election Commission has decided not to renew the agreement with Oberthur Technologies.
Now the Commission wants to depend on local experts or companies to complete the remaining works of the distribution of 90 million smart cards under the EC's Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) project.
Besides, the EC has decided to provide the remaining voters with smart NID cards as the country's voters increased to 101.68 million as per the EC's statistics of July 2017.
The EC started a negotiation with a local company over the production of the smart cards having 25 security features. "All the country's voters, including fresh ones, will get smart NID cards within June 2018," EC acting Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed.
Saying that the Commission has some 70 percent (of 90 million) smart cards in hand, the EC's acting secretary told UNB, "We'll complete the distribution of the cards within June 2018."
IDEA Project Director Brig Gen Mohammed Saidul Islam blamed the Oberthur Technologies for the failure to supply the smart NID cards in time. So, the EC does not want to award the job to any foreign firm any more.
Noting that Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory has already sent some sample smart cards to the commission, he said, "It'll take some time to provide all with the cards, but we must be successful."
As per the EC's plan to provide the smart cards to city voters initially, the distribution of the cards now continues in five city corporations --Dhaka, Chittagong, Barisal, Khulna and Rajshahi.
The Commission in 2011 worked out a plan to provide the smart cards under the IDEA project, which is jointly sponsored by the World Bank and the government of Bangladesh. Later, the IDEA project period was extended to December 2017 from the July 2016.
The smart cards have multipurpose uses in getting services like TIN number, driving licence, passport, opening bank accounts, marriage registration and admission to educational institutions.
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