By Alan Markoff
Imagine walking into a Cayman Islands government office and filling out and signing an application form with the tap of a smart card, or being able to sign documents remotely without having to print, sign, scan and email. Imagine also being able to transfer property or a vehicle securely online knowing exactly with whom you’re transacting business.
Being able to do these things in the Cayman Islands might seem like fantasy, but if all goes as planned, they’ll be a reality sometime next year as part of the e-Government Unit’s strategy to develop a digital register of identities and machine-readable photo ID card.
Attendees of the fourth annual Cayman Islands Digital Economy Conference on 3 June heard about the initiative that is already in advanced stages of planning before going through various consultations, and hopefully to Parliament by the end of this year. The conference, of which Dart was a sponsor, was held virtually this year — as it was last year — because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Financial Services and Commerce, and of Investment, Innovation, and Social Development André Ebanks launched the event and introduced the theme of the conference — Putting Cayman on the Digitisation Track — by speaking broadly about some of the benefits of having the Cayman Islands embrace a digital society.
“Technology offers a great platform to help raise all in society and to that end, we are going to be pushing forward from an innovation perspective a national digital ID programme,” he said.
Register of Identities
Ian Tibbetts, director of e-Government with the Ministry of Investment, Innovation and Social Development, spoke about how the planned digital register of identities would work.
“We’ll be establishing a register of identities associated with an online portal that aims to offer Caymanians and residents convenience, transparency, control over your own data and improved access to government services,” he said, adding that the register will also provide government with information that will help it better plan, serve the public and make decisions.
Tibbetts said the register of identities would be founded on the principle of data minimalisation, which is a key objective of Cayman’s Data Protection Law. In addition to a national identification number that each person will be assigned, the only other required information in the register will be the person’s full name, date of birth, place of birth, photograph and signature. Another piece of information that is hoped to be included is a person’s Cayman Islands’ immigration status.
“Other than this basic information, the individual will have the option to include other information that can make accessing services and being contacted easier,” Tibbetts said. “You choose if the benefits to you are worth providing the information; it’s your choice.”
An online portal and mobile app will allow users to access and manage their data and that of any of their dependents, and to see which government entities may have accessed their data, Tibbetts said, adding that it will also give them access to various government services and eventually, to apply for the national ID card.
Digital ID card
The national identification card will serve two purposes, the first of which is simply to provide residents with an easily carried physical photo ID card, something some residents do not have.
The second purpose is to provide a digital identity certificate and signature and to provide a digital version of the information in a register of identities, Tibbetts said.
The card will also have a QR code for sharing information that changes that can be updated by the holder of the card.
“The ID card will be a tool to prove your identity with or without technology,” he said. “Without technology, your basic information is visible to anyone you provide the card to. With technology, the card is machine readable both by inserting it into a reader to be read by the chip or just by tapping it on a contactless reader.”
The card will also offer the ability for secure, remote multi-factor authentication that will limit access to the verified intended holder of the card, Tibbetts said.
“This creates the confidence that the user you’re interacting with either online or digitally is the right person,” he said.
Some of the details about the register of identities and national ID card will be decided over the course of this year through a series of consultations before the required new legislation goes to Parliament for approval.
Among the decisions yet to be made is whether or not the ID card will be mandatory.
“Right now, the thinking is that it’s optional,” Tibbetts said.
Through implementing the digital register of identities and national identification card, the government will enable Cayman’s digital society, Tibbetts said, allowing for more efficiencies.
In Estonia, one of the early adopters of e-government, the time and cost savings of just converting to digitally signed documents has been significant, he said.
“Estonia estimates that it has saved them 2% of GDP per year.”
Tibbetts said the government will make the digital society available to all, but that it understands that there are those who will not be able to — or choose not to — be involved in a digital society for one reason or another.
“We have to ensure we understand their concerns and make it as easy and convenient as possible,” he said. “If they’re ready [to adopt digital society] they’ll have it and if they’re not, we still have to be able to serve them.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times.
About the Author
Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for four years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 17 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for the Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. Alan is passionate about food and wine and he loves to write about both those subjects. He is also the leader of Grand Cayman’s Slow Food Chapter. One of Alan’s favourite ways to relax is to catch a film at Camana Bay Cinema. It was at one of these movies that he met his wife, Lynn!