The Department of Home Affairs says it is making good progress in replacing outdated systems with new, secure and cutting-edge technologies.
The department’s Director-General, Mkuseli Apleni, said to date, of the 403 Home Affairs offices, 110 are equipped with the Live Capture system for the processing of Smart ID Cards and new passports.
The department plans to increase this number to 140 offices by this month.
“Our task is to ensure progressively that the over 38 million citizens with green ID books convert to the Smart ID Card by the time this process concludes.
“Our strategy is to issue Smart ID Cards free of charge to 16-year-olds as well as those who are 60 years old and above,” Apleni said.
The department has issued over one million Smart ID Cards in less than a year and is confident of reaching the target of 1.6 million cards by the end of the 2014/15 financial year.
“We are really moving, considering this process only started in 2013,” he said.
In 2013, Home Affairs introduced the Smart ID Card and the new passport as part of its modernisation programme. The new ID card and passport have strong security features, which significantly reduce the chances of fraudulently producing these two essential items.
The delivery time for IDs has also been improved. It used to take 54 days for an applicant to get an ID book. With the new Smart ID Card, it takes less than 10 days.
“The new cards are printed immediately at Government Printing Works. That is why we are able to send you text messages promptly informing you your cards are ready for collection. Do collect them,” said Apleni.
Apleni said the smart ID cards could only be issued at offices where the department had rolled out the Live Capture system. He said people were now opting to apply for the new Smart ID Card rather than the green ID book.
The interest from the public in the new ID card has been overwhelming.
“The result has been long queues in some offices. It is not only the 16-year-olds and the elderly who go to our offices to receive the new cards. Many prefer to go to where there is Live Capture, not to offices where they are still issuing the green ID book.
“For now the green ID is valid and is still offered in offices with no Live Capture.
“Whereas the old system depended on paper forms and manual fingerprinting, the new Live Capture system is online. This means that even the size of the bandwidth poses another challenge,” said Apleni.
He added that the modernisation programme should totally transform the manner in which Home Affairs renders public services in all their offices, including at the ports of entry.
He said the department was also using an automated application process with the Dispensation for Zimbabwean Permits, through which it is normalising the stay of Zimbabwean nationals who were in the country illegally.
“That is why people were able to apply and finish in time. This is a part of the efficiencies we are talking about.”
Dealing with network challenges
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba is expected to announce the process of sorting out current network challenges. However, Apleni said their offices have the capacity to provide services even when they are offline.
“In the design of the system, we have the offline mode so that our offices should still be operational even when power is down, although as a temporary measure. Load shedding may impact on client service but we have made provision for such eventualities.
“We conduct scheduled systems upgrades and make provision for sufficient capacity generators to ensure systems are able to function even when there are power outages around the country.”
Home Affairs is engaged in discussions, through the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, with the South African State Information Technology Agency and Telkom to upgrade office bandwidth and prevent cable theft in metropolitan areas.