Starting from yesterday, the government of Malta will be rolling out new electronic identity cards that contain an electronic chip on which identification information is stored.
Home Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Ms Ramona Attard, told the Malta Independent newspaper that the soft roll-out will serve as a fine-tuning exercise for bigger, impending plans related to this initiative. The identity cards offices have moved from Evans Building in Valletta to Gottard House in Blata l-Bajda (near ARMS Ltd). The full roll-out is expected to be conducted in the near future.
Ms Attard pointed out that, if the government had not taken the initiative to initiate the process of replacing the expired identity cards with new ones, Malta could easily have lost seven million euros in EU funds, which were allocated specially towards this project.
The new ID cards will serve as a key for its users to access a number of government services, opening up a myriad of opportunities through an electronic chip. In the future, the services the card could be used for would be expanded.
Ms Attard said that the e-ID card will be processed within a maximum of four days from the date the application is submitted by the applicant and will be delivered to one’s door by a Maltapost employee, so as to relieve applicants of the burden of having to collect their new ID card.
She explained that the last ID card roll-out took place around 11 years ago and despite the Labour Party’s calls, urging a PN-led government to renew the expired cards, this did not happen. Ms Attard said that the government’s instability at the time also delayed the process.
“So this government ended up with no plans in hand whatsoever related to this project,” Ms Attard lamented.
Home Affair Minister Manuel Mallia felt that this project had to be launched at all costs, due to the funds that could have been lost as well as the fact that the expired ID cards were causing people great inconvenience, she said.
The newly set-up task force, Ms Attard said, headed by the former head of the Civil Service under the previous administration, Dr Godwin Grima, and which comprises five individuals, has focused its efforts on the project, replacing the far-too-large former project review board, which was composed of 30 individuals.
The e-card will render a number of cards obsolete, including the Kartanzjan, which will be integrated into the new e-card.
Dr Grima said that the fact that the ID cards office was receiving around 1,500 card renewals on a weekly basis, complicated matters and this led the Minister to decide to begin the soft roll-out of e-identity cards by tackling those individuals who urgently needed to change their ID cards due to personal detail alterations, or for travelling purposes.
The card processing will remain free for those who need to conduct changes to their personal details or whose cards have expired, but those who have lost their ID cards will have to incur a fee, as was always the case.
Therefore, nothing really has changed in terms of the processing of ID cards for the time-being, with the exception that those individuals who were requesting an urgent renewal of their ID card will be receiving an e-card – which carries a chip, hosting a number of electronic features – until a mass roll-out is conducted. The major change is that the ID card office has migrated to Gottard House from Evans’ Building.
Ms Attard said that if one needed to renew his or her ID card urgently, this could still happen in a matter of two hours against a fee, as was also the case with the old system.
She said that the card will be processed within four days because it takes some time to install the electronic features.
“This government is doing its utmost to ensure a smooth transition from the old system to the new one,” Ms Attard said, while urging the public to take note of the ministry’s media advertising campaign, which includes the necessary information related to this project.
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