The need to move with technology: a case of Zambia’s national registration card

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By Aristide Bance

Prologue

The year is 1998 and I had just turned 16. My mum comes to my room and says I should get ready as we are going to get my Green National Registration. I am now becoming a man I thought. The excitement I was feeling at that moment I cannot describe. My mum and I go to the Kamwala centre and stand in a queue. The queue is moving fast and this is impressive. As we enter the interview room, the officials ask me questions regarding my parentage and their villages. They even speak to me in the local lingo (A technique public officials have horned and perfected so well when trying to detect Zambians and non-Zambians). After the interview I go into a room and my picture is taken but I am taken aback as I see that my identity card is a piece of paper that is placed in a typewriter and suddenly I feel like I am in 1988. But this is 1998! I don’t understand why two years before the year 2000, these people are using outdated technology. I watch the typing and afterwards a portrait of myself is placed in the typewritten paper. I am then told to sign this piece of paper and then afterwards, it is placed in a thick lamination clear plastic and paced through a laminator. After that I sign a register and I am given my warm National Registration Card. I am filled with mixed emotions and my mum gets my card for safe keeping.

The South African Smart card

I had to set the tone for this article and give the reader a sense of what I felt when I got my National Registration Card because it was a big moment for me and it meant a lot. Now that I have the attention of the readers, let me get straight to what the article is about. This is 2017 and I still have my National Registration Card which is in very good condition as I respect important documents. I showed my NRC card to my South African friend and he asked me what I was holding and when I told him he thought I was joking. Well, I don’t blame him and this is why. On the 18th July 2013, South Africa started rolling out a smart identity card moving away from what the used which were green identity books. With a smart card, it can be conveniently carried in your wallet or purse because of its size and shape. It is the same size and shape as your other cards – bank cards etc. Your personal information is stored in a computer chip in the card. The chip cannot be stolen from your card therefore your information will be safe. Your fingerprints will also be stored in the computer chip in the card. The information contained in the Smart ID card cannot be easily stolen or duplicated.

The Nigerian Identity card

I have a Nigerian friend who told me that in Nigeria, when he was growing up, they had no Identity card and everyone had a passport. He mentioned that this caused a lot of foreigners to just cross over from neighbouring countries and obtain the Nigerian passport simply because the borders that exist in Africa are considered artificial in most parts of Africa and people have relatives in neighbouring countries but now that these borders are law, people are obliged to remain in the confines of their borders.

The card, which fits into a wallet and comes with a credit-card style chip, can also be used to make electronic payments. Nigerians can use it to deposit funds, receive social benefits, pay for goods and withdraw cash at ATMs across the country, according to MasterCard, which provides the card’s prepaid payment technology. The company also claims that by providing proof of identity, the card solves one of the biggest problems people face when trying to open a bank account. The card could also be used for voting in the future.

The Malawian identity card

East of Zambia, lies a small and peaceful country called Malawi. Malawi smart identity card serves a number of purposes. The national ID card will make it possible for the ID card holder to show their eligibility for multiple purposes. For example, it can be used to access free primary education, social services such as health care and to meet financial requirements such as getting a loan. Even Malawi as small as it is in embracing technology which is a wonderful thing.

The Ugandan Identity card

According to the africanreport of April 14th 2014, for the first time since its independence in 1962, Uganda was slated to undertake a massive registration exercise to ensure every citizen in the east African country obtains a national identity card. The national identification cards are now digitised and bear the holders’ photo, names, biometric details including fingerprints.

The benefits of the new identity card enable for proper identification helping authorities apprehend suspects faster, drive down crime, and reduce fraud in the banking sector as well as electoral malpractices.”

The Zambian National Registration card

The Zambian National Registration card looks very retro when placed with the modern smart identity cards that most countries use and this is because it is. It looks so old school and laughable. It is supposed to be a symbol of national pride but I will not take out my card when friends ask me because it is simply unacceptable. The picture below shows Zambia’s backwardness. When countries are incorporating their smart identity cards with voter’s information, in Zambia, we need a second card when voting. The horror!

NRC National Registration
NRC National Registration

The Zambian NRC is an embarrassment and should be phased out. How can we be used this kind of identity in the technological age surely.

The benefits of adopting a smart Zambian national registration card

This article has outlined benefits using other countries in terms of moving on with the new technology.
To reiterate, the benefits are

  1. If I use the Nigerian case in point, electronic payments can be made. It can be used it to deposit funds, receive social benefits, pay for goods and withdraw cash at ATMs across.
  2. To avoid people obtaining Zambian National Registration cards and avoid people pretending to others as this information will be in a national database.
  3. Avoid fraudulent activities and early detection of such as this will be easy to trace with computer technology.
  4. Can also be used to combine as a voting card, hence avoiding doing the voters cards every time we have to vote, this will save money obviously.
  5. As in the Malawian case, this new smart card will be used for a lot of things, hence eliminating the carrying of multiple cards like for example, pensioner’s cards, etc.
  6. The digitisation of the NRC will make unscrupulous people fear stealing other people’s identities. Zambian NRCs are now in the possession of many nationalities across the globe.
  7. The chip that most smart cards have stores personal information that cannot be stolen. The current Zambian NRC lacks proper security features.

Epilogue

In conclusion, I would like to urge the government to really think hard and start digitising the National Registration Card system. There was a recent cry from chiefs in Southern province over subjects they know to be foreigners masquerading as Zambians and are busy stealing land. Such problems can be prevented if the identity system is a working system.

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41 COMMENTS

  1. Keep dreaming because under pf we have been been taken back back to dictatorship and uncivilised way way of life

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    • Mark my words, broke PF will in the next few months change passports, NRCs, voters cards, driver’s licenses in order to milk the poor Zambians. The tender will be given to a PF00L cadre close to Kamina-misa.

      kabila recently changed passports for all Kassai’s & gave the tender to his brother’s company. He charged them $185 each (instead of $65) & made hundreds of millions of dollars.

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    • Good Points the Zambian NRC is why outdated, It needs to be changed. Even the passport application process should be digitized. In Summary Zambian Government should adopt e service in most of their service offering to citizens to reduce corruption.

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    • Keep quiet all of you. This is not an important issue to start wasting resources on.
      If they is extra cash to spend, I would rather they buy more vehicles for transporting criminals like HH to avoid him complaining about dog feaces.

      Better still if government wanted to do it it would be a walk over but how will this help the poor? Government is more concerned with reducing poverty levels than doing cosmetic jobs.

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    • zambia lacks political will,reasons are,1.Z is the last letter in the alphabet.2,why call it ZAMBIA THE REAL AFRICA,so everything its stone age.3.corruption and power hungry.
      lets ignore the critics,the author has raised developmental advantages in his argument.most of the countries in the world have a unitary symbol when singing their nation anthem but zambia every jim and jack can decide which symbol to raise when singing the national anthem

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  2. They will not introduce smart cards because they use the archaic NRC to rig elections. They can bus in thousands of foreigners from Malawi, Mozambique, and DRC, issue them with NRC and let them vote. PF government will not embrace technology because it reduces their rigging odds.

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  3. The man is not dreaming… The idea is good . We need to digitize our NRC, police records, agriculture records, and pension records.

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  4. Its a nightmare trying to get a NRC in Zambia.For many years I used a photocopied because I just didnt have the energy to spend the whole day at the registration office

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  5. That is why some of us left Zambia, I realized if I have to wait for these *****s to become smart it will take too long. Then I realised it will never happen, at least not in my lifetime, and am in my thirties. A nation of stupid dull backward people , and this stupidity breeds poverty and greed and cruelty and it all feeds on each other in a vicious circle.

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    • …and you are a white man’s ni.g.g.a!!! He will never accept you as his equal not even in a millenium!!! You are a second class citizen!!! Shame on you!!!

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  6. Do you know why good advise is usually thrown into the bin? It is more of criticism than advice and ridicules the system. Give this advice to the relevant minister in confidence, you will hear Zambia is working towards smart NRCs! I entirely agree with you that crossing over to digital makes ‘everything’ easier.

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  7. We can do it …. Sometimes we must admit we can do it. Do you we need foreign investors to do what we can do? Let us do it with or without politicians…
    Zambians are not dull. I know they are good and serious Zambians who are willing to do much for this country. Even bloggers can do it……
    Let ideas flow….
    Japanese, Malaysians, Singapore etc have done it….Let us emulate them…. Sometimes politics must put aside and real work be done…

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  8. Its people like nez and his uncivilized clan of the chundu who always want a thumb print because they cant sign or spell their names.

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  9. HH Oval head… grow in grace and use noble language….Don’t not demean others…. Try once in your life time talk less of other and provide solutions. Forget about nez and his clan as you put and talk positive for once.
    Yesterday , I had a meeting with Zimbabweans and they told me that Zambians are hardworking. The Zimbabweans are building a hotel in Lusaka and did some works at Lumwana where the fillipinos were dismissed because of improper worknmanship. The Zimbabweans were praised . They are working with Zambians… I needed their advice on some issues…
    HH Oval Head , let us prove that we are serious Zambians that can work and use greater intellect when handling issues……
    You don’t win a critic by using his tricks but being nice to him pays off whilst working…
    When…

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  10. HH Oval head… grow in grace and use noble language….Don’t not demean others…. Try once in your life time talk less of other and provide solutions. Forget about nez and his clan as you put and talk positive for once.
    Yesterday , I had a meeting with Zimbabweans and they told me that Zambians are hardworking. The Zimbabweans are building a hotel in Lusaka and did some works at Lumwana where the Fillipinos were dismissed because of improper workmanship. The Zimbabweans were praised . They are working with Zambians… I needed their advice on some issues…
    HH Oval Head , let us prove that we are serious Zambians that can work and use greater intellect when handling issues……
    You don’t win a critic by using his tricks but being nice to him pays off whilst working…
    When…

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  11. The was a UNDP/USAID funded project between 2011-2013 to upgrade current NRCs to digital cards with the secure chip but the plans were shelved.

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  12. We will also soon phase out the ‘manual’ NRCs and introduce ‘computerized’ and more portable ATM card-like NRCs

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  13. The only embarrassing cards are Zambian and Ugandan. I guess because they are birds of the same furthers or stupid and *****ic FATHERS.

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  14. Free advise to NEZ start from today putting faith in your Lord and creator Jesus Christ than a fellow human being like any politician. For your days are numbered, politicians won’t save your soul, don’t be blinded by Earthly riches that come with the arrogance you display on this forum. Start thinking outside the box, for you are blinded and hypnotised to believe that there will be no Zambia has long as its not hh at the helm, that is very shallow thinking Zambia has been there, will be there and is here even after this generation passes on Zambia will be there. Let no politician fool you that only them and not anybody else can lead this great nation.

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  15. This shouldn’t be that hard to do. Passports are drivers licenses are already digital and biometric. There is need to modernize those colonial or should I say medieval application forms for government documents. Going digital with visa application forms will add to the government coffers. This would save people from those government employees who are permanently at lunch when you need things done.

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    • Did you not see that the NRC numbers are also included on your digitised passports? Why double things up?

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  16. Lusaka Times May 23, 2013: The Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship is expected to introduce a new type of National Registration Cards (NRC) next month.
    National Registrar General Mathews Nyirongo said the new National Registration Cards (NRC), which will be bio-metric with a chip, will contain additional security features such as finger prints to reduce fraud on the document. Mr. Nyirongo told ZANIS in Lusaka yesterday that the new NRC will be used concurrently with the old ones for some time. He explained that after carrying out a successful tender evaluation, the department shortlisted three foreign bidders for the contract of issuing new NRCs. He said the project is sponsored by the United National Development Programme.

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  17. Our smart VP Inonge has already embraced eGovernance when in Rwanda.
    This is history. Our Government is MILES AHEAD in preparing for this change.
    ZAMBIA GET READY, its coming . . sooner than later. How you use will be LIMITLESS.

    To all my Chiefs (including Southern province), get a laptop, a solar charger and keep an electronic register of your subjects with land allocation quotas. Modernize your local land allocation constitution NOW.

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  18. The idea is good just as that of rebranding our flag, but the question is, whats takes priority amongst many development competing needs?
    If you as me now i will certainly without doubt state here and now that the so called advnced countries take a lot of tome to change their technology because if it works, why change it? So better spend tjose resources to improve infrastructure like roads, conference facilities, hospitals, schools, housing, water reticulations, improve agriculture methods etc.
    There time for everything and its time to reduce poverty by focusing on the above.

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    • the govt can ask all citizens to pay a fee for the digitalized cards,so money meant for other developmental cant be affected.instead of starting at 16 years ,the card can be assigned at birth and updated every 5 years for those under the age of 18.

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    • Thats why one of the benefits of the smart id would be access to medical services. have you gone to a public hospital and seen how they operate…before we talk about you being attended to..they have to open a book with dirty pages to capture your details…you will die before they attend you. with a smart id..we just swipe and viola your details come up……

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    • The fact that our NRC is out dated costs us even more money. The tedious exercise of obtaining new voters cards every time we vote is even expensive. Mind you we have had presidents die in office and each time there is the issue of voters cards. If you think the upgrading of the NRC is a waste of resources try being less sophisticated in terms of being left behind in terms of technology. if the smart card can do a variety of tasks, we will be saving millions of kwacha.

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  19. Excellent idea, I hope the relevant office has taken note of this well articulated appeal. Great thinking and far from political bickering.

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  20. I hate crude language used on this fora. Brothers and sisters late us debate, deliberate and speak as one nation without insulting one another. one love.

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  21. Silly article. Aristide Bance, needs to get a Zambian passport and note that the new electronic passports do indeed include his/ her identity Card Number in it. So it would be a pointless waste of money to put a chip ‘in it,’ for what us a card recognised in Zambia ONLY.

    It’s very annoying when anti-gov’t robots publish ill researched articles for misinformation and FAKE news purposes. With a name like that you should be greatful to even be given one not be disparaging a local document which is accepted in Zambia.

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    • well, the question i would like to ask you is …….what about people who can not afford your passport. I think people should always think of other people before the write on an issue…problem is you think if you can afford a passport, a person in chilubi island can do the same……just saying…

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  22. Also a national identity serves alot of functions, you need an id to get married for example and if you read clearly in this article, fraud cases such as the ones we have in zambia where foreign nationals obtain our stone age NRC will be avoided……The problem in zambia right now is that everything is about politics, i wrote this article as a piece of advise…..

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