Chhimi Dema

A nationwide programme to collect biometrics for the creation of digital identities was launched in Thimphu yesterday.

The biometric data collection programme is the core of the National Digital Identity (NDI) project under the Digital Drukyul Flagship, and is expected to ensure secure online services with efficient identity verification.

The 18-month programme for biometric data collection was initiated in collaboration with the Department of IT and Telecom (DITT); Civil Registration and Census, and Immigration; and DeSuung Office for the NDI.

A pilot project between April and September this year collected biometric details from 25,333 individuals.

DITT Director Jigme Tenzing said that identity theft is possible with the present IT systems requiring a username and password, and this is why critical services such as opening bank accounts online are not encouraged.

“The digital identity ensures that no one has control over the identity used to apply for online services,” he said.

The project will collect fingerprints and faceprints of all Bhutanese citizens above the age of eight years.

Jigme Tenzing said that a digital template that is created using an algorithm will verify one’s identity while availing online services.

“There are risks in any digital system, but we are taking as many steps as possible to minimise the access to the fingerprints of others,” he said.

Jigme Tenzing said that it was likely that multiple biometrics will be used for digital identity.

Multiple biometrics will be used to access an application on phones. Then a secure token will be sent to the phone to be used for every transaction, and a secret code to enter during transactions.

“Linking all these together, we are quite confident that we will be able to provide the same level of assurance of having face-to-face interaction,” he said.

Organisations are adopting different biometric technologies, Jigme Tenzing said, so with this biometric capture, services such as online transactions, among others, should be possible using the platform.

A digital identity could be used for online services, to strengthen the census database, and speed up border movement, like expediting entry and exit from different locations.

Minister of Information and Communications Karma Donnen Wangdi said during the launch: “NDI is one of the core modules of the Digital Drukyul Flagship programme, as envisioned by His Majesty, and we are confident that it will transform services to our citizens.”

The nationwide programme will start simultaneously in 11 dzongkhags. The 11 dzongkhags are Bumthang, Chukha, Gasa, Haa, Mongar, Pemagatshel, Punakha, Thimphu, Trashigang, Wangdue and Zhemgang. A total of 130 de-suups have been deployed for the project.

Edited by Tshering Palden