South African parliamentary delegates briefed on biometric ID card, passport issuance reforms

South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has told delegates of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the country’s upper chamber of parliament, of the reforms his department his championing to simplify how citizens apply for and obtain ID credentials such as biometric national ID cards and passports.

In a recent question-and-answer session with special delegates of the Peace and Security Cluster 1C of the NCOP, Motsoaledi said digital self-service kiosks installed at some Home Affairs offices to facilitate ID issuance were indeed helping to reduce wait time, according to information published on the parliament website.

Motsoaledi said as part of efforts to curb queues, Homes Affairs is piloting facial recognition self-service kiosks which will be deployed to their offices in all nine of the country’s provinces, while hoping that the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) will also improve its connectivity issues to make service delivery smoother.

“The heart of long queues is the SITA system that is always down. So, in the meantime, we are doing what we can,” said Motsoaledi as quoted.

The government official also explained the functioning of the Branch Appointment Booking System (BAPS) through which ID and passport applicants book appointments for the capture of their biometrics. With the BAPS, users spend less than 15 minutes at Home Affairs offices when seeking services, said Motsoaledi.

Responding to a question from a lawmaker on what Home Affairs has been doing to extend its services to rural and difficult-to-access communities, Motsoaledi said they have been using mobile teams to reach such areas.

Already, 100 mobile teams have been mobilized for that purpose and about 100 more are expected in the near future in order to boost their rural outreach capabilities, he said.

The minister equally briefed the NCOP delegates on the Home Affairs’ digital plan to strengthen and modernize its border management architecture, namely with the deployment of biometrics. The country has a plan to deploy biometrics for passenger checks in all of its airports in a project estimated at $5.2 million.

South Africa recently announced Home Affairs offices were extending their working hours on two weekends to allow more people collect their ID cards and passports ahead of a voter registration activity slated for November 18-19.