Bangladesh

Smart NID for expatriates: EC sending staff to 40 countries

The Election Commission will send its officials to 40 countries to hand smart NID cards to the Bangladeshis living there.

The work in this regard will start once the Covid-19 situation improves and the EC plans to deliver the cards in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and the UK in the first phase.

The Tk 100 crore project was approved at the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) meeting today. The money will come from the funds of Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (phase-II) Project, which will be implemented from this December to November 2025 spending Tk 1,805.09 crore.

After the weekly Ecnec meeting, Planning Commission member Abul Kalam Azad said the new project had been undertaken as the tenure of the first phase of the IDEA project would expire in December.

He said the EC would send its teams to 40 countries which host the largest number of Bangladeshis to include their names in the voter list and provide them with NID cards.

He also said the EC teams would work in coordination with the respective embassies under the new project.

Officials estimate they might need to distribute around one crore cards in those 40 countries.

Talking to The Daily Star this evening, IDEA Project Director Brig Gen Mohammed Saidul Islam said they planned to spend Tk 2.5 crore for the work in each country on average.

"But we will need more than Tk 2.5 crore for some large countries as we will need to send several teams at the registration points there," he said.

Abul Kalam said all citizens above 14 would get smart NID cards under the second phase of the IDEA project. But the project director, Saidul, said, "Our ultimate plan under the second phase of the project is to distribute smart NID cards among all aged above 10."

Till now, the EC has given smart NID cards to citizens aged 18 and above.

Other targets of the second phase of the IDEA project include expansion of NID database and updating it to make the existing server more efficient and help the EC have a flawless voter list.

"We will need to modernise and enhance the database and server as the number of people and voters are increasing every day. Although the target of distributing smart NID cards was initially set at nine crore, we now have around 10.98 crore voters," said Saidul.

Abul Kalam said the major operations of the project include production and personalisation of smart cards.

"We've placed a recommendation at the meeting that the NID services can be brought under the revenue budget, instead of keeping it under any project," he said.

Meanwhile, Planning Division Senior Secretary Ashadul Islam said the government was planning to bring all data registration activities, including NID registration, birth and death registration, and the registration activities carried out by Directorate General of Family Planning under a single entity.

The five-year-long first phase of the IDEA project was launched in 2011, aiming at establishing a secure, accurate and reliable national identification system in Bangladesh.

During the first phase, the commission is supposed to personalise and supply NID cards to about 9 crore voters up to upazila level. However, it has so far personalised and supplied 6.5 crore cards till date, said EC officials.

After missing four deadlines, the first phase of the project is now set to be completed next month. Its cost has risen to Tk 1,696 crore, up from the primary budget of Tk 1,379 crore.

Rest of the cards will be distributed in the second phase, IDEA project officials said.

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