Chaos, frustration, technical blunders and administrative incompetence: that was how the great rush for national ID cards began last week. It became apparent that the Government's declared aim to have an estimated 400,000 expatriate professionals registered by the end of the year was hopelessly over-optimistic. Two weeks ago the Emirates Identity Authority (EID) revealed that, contrary to an earlier announced deadline of 2010, expatriates had until Dec 31 to register for the new national identity card.
Failure to do so will result in the loss of the right to use Government-related services. Many of the EID's 28 registration centres were overwhelmed. Worse, the stampede of anxious expatriates exposed serious failings throughout the system. There was frustration caused by the many failings of the authority's website, which runs at a snail's pace, compounded by confused and contradictory telephone advice by its customer services team.
The EID's mission statement, writ large across its website, is: "Our goal is to satisfy you". Part of the problem is that Emiratis, who have had months to register, have been slow to come forward; an estimated 200,000 have yet to do so. Thursday was the application deadline for the approximately 300,000-strong federal government workforce of nationals and expatriates, yet large numbers have not done so, according to Thamer al Qasemi, the planning director of the Emirates Identity Authority. They have known about the requirement since early summer.
On Oct 22 Mr Qasemi insisted that "once you are in front of an operator" registration would take "just 14 minutes". The reality is that the process consumes many hours. Getting in front of an operator can take days or even weeks. * The National