x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Why the rush?

A bureaucracy in a hurry is a curious sight, but there is a first time for everything. There is no doubt that the best of intentions are driving the Emirates Identity Authority's insistence that every resident must have a national ID card to access healthcare and other Government services. Identity theft is a pernicious and growing problem, and any measure that helps to prevent it is welcome. However, the EIA has set itself a prodigious task.

Before the end of this year, to obtain an ID card up to half a million expatriate professionals will require to have their biometric details recorded, including fingerprints and face recognition, in addition to providing details of their passport, driving licence, address, residency status and qualifications. In purely practical terms, this is an enormous undertaking. And in computer terms, it will engender deep misgivings in anyone who has studied the track record of large-scale government IT projects throughout the world. That is not all: when white-collar registration is complete, the EIA will move on to the even more daunting task of registering the estimated three million blue-collar workers in the UAE.

Why impose an apparently arbitrary deadline less than three months away? And, more important, if the system buckles under the strain, will the deadline be extended?