The Department of Home Affairs says it is ready to pilot eChannel, its new innovative system that will allow citizens to apply for their smart ID cards from the comfort of their homes.
Mpho Moloi, the department’s Chief Director for Channel Management, said all systems are in place to roll out the pilot project that will also allow customers to walk into their nearest bank to apply for their smart ID cards.
“FNB and Standard bank have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding and have provided a site each and envisage to go on-line in May.
“We have already installed phone booths at the sites. We are testing the eChannel system to ensure that it can withstand the security requirements.
“We have conducted a risk analysis and we are seeking further legal advice on the security of the eChannel system,” he said.
Moloi said this when the department appeared before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on Tuesday.
The briefing comes after Minister Malusi Gigaba announced that an agreement had been reached with two banks and the South African Post Office to introduce a system that will allow citizens to walk into their nearest bank and apply for a smart ID card.
President Jacob Zuma had announced the innovation during his State of the Nation Address in February.
eChannel is part of the department’s overall modernisation strategy to move services from paper to digital, a process which will include the cleaning of the population register.
Moloi said FNB and Standard Bank signed an agreement and each provided sites where pilots will be rolled out.
Applications for smart ID cards and passports will be processed at the banks and the South African Post Office.
Home Affairs booths have been set up at the FNB and Standard Bank pilot sites and ready to go live next month.
The pilot will run from May to July 2015. In August, an assessment will be done to see if the system works or not.
Moloi said further agreements with Nedbank and ABSA were being finalised and that details of pilots with them will soon be initiated.
Moloi was then called upon to answer tough questions from Members of Parliament (MPs), most of whom asked him if taking the services to banks will not result in longer queues.
Some questions also touched on the security of the Home Affairs database system and whether it will still be secured and protected from hackers.
Moloi said eChannel deals with long queues as customers have an option to first submit an on-line application to enter their personal details digitally before walking into a bank, post office or Home Affairs office to complete their applications.
“After capturing your biographic details on eChannel, you then come to the bank to capture your fingerprints to verify that you are the person you claim to be,” he said.
He said while a risk assessment has been done on the system to protect it from identity theft, it remains an on-going process.
“We are employing the best hackers to come attempt to hack the eChannel system to ensure that our system is secure,” he said.
Moloi said the objective of rolling out the system is to ensure that the department replaces 38 million green bar-coded ID books, a process the department expects to take up to eight years.