ABU DHABI // The time taken to issue Emirates ID cards will be cut to less than 10 days within the next two months, the man in charge of the system promised yesterday.
"From our side, it will take a maximum of five days to produce the cards, as we are re-engineering our procedures and logistical work," Dr Ali Khouri, the director general of the Emirates ID Authority (EIDA), said at a smart-card conference in the capital.
The authority hopes the changes, which include the addition of higher-speed and self-service card printers, will increase production capacity from 7,000 to 15,000 cards a day. Applicants will also be required to provide a PO box number to improve accuracy of delivery.
In future the cards will be delivered by Emirates Post only. It will also be possible for company representatives to collect the cards on behalf of groups of employees.
Dr Khouri said that after Ramadan there would be a trial phase in which the ID cards could be used for some consumer services. This could involve people using the cards to pay traffic fines and buy petrol, or pupils using them to check on and off school buses.
The director general did not explain how payments could be made using the cards. However, each card contains a smart chip on which it may be possible to store credit.
The lifespan of the cards for Emiratis will be limited to five years, unlike in some countries where they last for up to 10 years.
"We consulted smart-card experts before deciding on the expiry date, and they said that was the maximum time the chip could operate with the temperatures we have here," Dr Khouri said.
During the conference, proponents of the technology said smart-cards brought benefits in terms of security and establishing paperless systems for governments.
Thani Alzaffin, a former director of e-government in Dubai, showed a video illustrating how check-in and boarding at airports could be carried out using self-service machines.
Dr Khouri said digital cards would make it easier for passport control to confirm whether someone whose name was on a wanted list was that person or merely had the same name. "Before, they used to depend on traditional data methods," he said. That left room for error and innocent people could end up in detention.
So far there are 3.8 million ID card holders.