The ‘ePopulation Register’ project was launched by Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister John Seneviratne at the Colombo Divisional Secretariat recently (7). Associated with Minister Seneviratne in the launch was Senior Minister for Urban Affairs A. H. M. Fowzie and Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.
ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) sources said that this was another national project under the eSri Lanka Development Programme implemented under the guidance of His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Speaking on this occasion Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister John Seneviratne said that this project was an epoch-making project. “It will contribute to making the benefits of ICT be reflected in providing public service to the people in such a comfortable manner as has not been done ever before.”
Underlining the manner the ePopulation Register Project stands out among several other past ICT-based projects the Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister said: “In the future information related to all births, marriages and deaths occurring in Sri Lanka will be incorporated into a computerised information system at the time the incidents are registered. Thanks to the ePopulation Register project, with the implementation of this new information system every citizen born in this country will be assigned a special identification code number. It will be possible to use this number in all future Government services for the person concerned not only in one Department but in all relevant Government Departments / institutions”,
Addressing the gathering briefly but most earnestly Telecommunication and IT Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitya underlined the importance of making maximum use of ICT to make lives of people more comfortable. “The ePopulation Register project will do away with the past difficulties. There have been times when people used to come to Colombo from far distant places like Moneragala travelling the previous night just to be told to come on another day”. The ePopulation Register will assign a number to each Sri Lankan at the very birth registration which could be used for several of his other future needs for public service.
An insight into the facility that this project will bring about could be had by a look at the format some of the forms developed for use under this project, e.g., forms for the “birth certificate” and “register of death” and the “certificate issued for the registration of a person in the population”.
Speaking on this occasion ICTA CEO Reshan Dewapura said: “I think it will be useful on this occasion when a project that is very important and useful to all Sri Lankans is launched that a brief introduction is given.
“The ‘ePopulation Register’ is the main IT database containing primary data of this country’s citizens. While this ePopulation Register is very important for making more efficient the services the Government provides to the public, it enables Government institutions to exchange citizen information safely and speedily. While with the introduction of the ePopulation Register, the method of registering of individual birth certificate becomes simple, the difficulties up to now experienced will be no more.
The actual operation of this ‘ePopulation’ project, jointly implemented by the Public Administration and Home Affairs Ministry and the Telecommunication and Information Technology Ministry, was carried out by the Registrar General’s Department and ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA).
Referring to the objectives of the ePopulation Register project, ICTA CEO said:
“The objective of the project is to create and maintain a single source of consolidated citizen information in order for the Government to verify the identities of citizens before providing Government centric services”.
Describing the project’s salient features Dewapura said
It will be a National Database of citizen information that will be accurate, reliable and current. Such information will be accessed by authorised Government institutions that offer many citizen services. It will facilitate information sharing between Government institutions, and notify changes to dynamic information held within the system, while simultaneously protecting the privacy rights of each citizen by introducing necessary controls.
It also will facilitate verification of information, especially the verification of identity of individuals who seek citizen centric services from various Government institutions.
The civil registration of the life events is used to create this main database.
Referring to the output of the project ICTA CEO said:
“The main output of the ePopulation Register will be the issuing of a unique National Personal Identification Number (Sri Lanka Identification Number - SLIN) at birth for every Sri Lankan. Apart from generating the PIN (SLIN), ePopulation Register will also disseminate basic information about the citizen to a host of other Government institutions on a need to know basis to provide citizen centric services. The basic information captured includes full name, date of birth, marital status, gender, address and place of birth”
Moving on to dwell on the benefits of the project Dewapura underlined the following:-
Streamlined Government procedures with respect to citizens’ services; easily accessible information regardless of location of access; increased efficiency in Government agencies and other players enacting programmes requiring citizens’ data by re-engineering Government institutions; transparency and user friendliness in the procedures of governance.
Scope and rationale for the ePopulation Register Project
Moving on to describe the Scope of the ePopulation Register Project and the need of the project Dewapura said: “In Sri Lanka, citizen records are mostly maintained manually in Government agencies and are not readily accessible to other Government agencies, thus resulting in a duplication of effort, time and costs. For example, the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) is responsible for the registration of births, deaths and marriages and captures such details as and when these life events occur. However, the Department of Registration of Persons which is the authority for issuing National Identity Cards when citizens turn 16 years of age, requires a citizen to provide his / her birth details when applying for a National Identity Card. Similarly, the Department of Immigration and Emigration again requires the same birth details to be provided when a citizen applies for a Passport. It is the same when a citizen applies for a Driver’s License – the Department of Motor Traffic requires the birth details to issue a Driver’s License. Likewise, many Government organisations require citizens to provide their personal information such as Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Current Address, Marital Status etc. on numerous occasions when the very information is already available with another Government organisation.
“This situation has resulted in much inconvenience to citizens as they have to submit their basic information to every Government institution when obtaining most of the Government services. Citizens are required to produce copies of their Birth Certificates or Marriage Certificates or National Identity Cards as supporting documents to authenticate their identity. Apart from the inconvenience it causes the citizen, it also leads to inefficiency within the Government processes to verify the identity of a citizen in such a manner.
Describing the joint effort of the Registrar General’s Department and ICTA in the project Dewapura said: “The Registrar General’s Department, with the technical assistance of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) launched into developing an electronic Population Register which will contain basic information of all the citizens of Sri Lanka. This initiative is called the ‘ePopulation Register’ project. The primary purpose of having a Population Register is to meet the requirements of the Government and the society for basic information on the citizens and foreign nationals who are residents of Sri Lanka, viz. information on the identity (name, date of birth, place of birth, marital status etc.), family relationships (marriage, children etc.) and place of abode (residential address, permanent address)
“As a part of building the Population Register, the Civil Registration System of Sri Lanka is also getting automated. The Civil Registration System in Sri Lanka has remained largely unchanged since it was first introduced in the 1860’s. In almost all instances, people give information about births, deaths and marriages in person in the area in which the event occurred. The registrar enters the data on a paper based register. The current manual system is credited with above 90% of coverage in terms of registering life events. However it is apparent that it cannot cater to the growing demands of the public in terms of volume, quality and convenience. Therefore, it has become essential to automate the Civil Registration System in Sri Lanka, not only to make the processes more economical and faster, but also to provide a better service to the public.
Ubiquitous online service
Explaining the online service that is not barred by geographic differences ICTA CEO said: “Information and Communication Technologies have opened opportunities for the Government institutions to offer their services online to its citizens regardless of the locality from where citizens request the services. As Government institutions need to verify the identities of citizens before providing the services, there is a need to have a single source of citizen information register or a ‘citizen hub’ against which that information can be verified. The ePopulation Register project which was launched recently (7 June) aims to establish such a register which will facilitate the distribution of essential Government services and allied outputs to the citizenry at large. This will alleviate the difficulties currently experienced by citizens in the pursuit of obtaining such services. It will also, through the set-up and maintenance of consolidated information, enable streamlining of Government procedures with respect to citizens’ services. It will make information more easily accessible regardless of location of access. It will enable Government institutions and other players enacting programmes requiring citizens’ data to do so in a more effective manner. It will enable monitoring and allow for corrective measures to be undertaken within realistic time frames and ensure transparency and user friendliness in the procedures of governance.
“Therefore, within the overall principles of the eSri Lanka initiative, the ‘ePopulation Register’ project is expected to dramatically improve the efficiency of the citizen centric services provided to all citizens. It will improve the efficiency of services needing to initiate or update any transaction related to their personal records. It also expects to provide a more reliable, timely and efficient service to the citizen in terms of registering their life events, by way of automating the civil registration system”, ICTA CEO said.
“As part of the ePopulation Register project, the formats of the Birth/Death and Marriage certificates are also changed to be more efficient in the process. The new certificates will carry a 2D barcode for electronic verification in the certificates.
Apart from the life event certificates, all the citizens will receive a Population Register System (PRS) Certificate to the citizens to acknowledge registration of the citizen in to ePopulation Register System. This also carries a 2D barcode for the electronic system.
In order to legalize all the above, a regulation of the ICT Act is made effective from 7th June 2012.
Steps are taken to introduce a public interface ePopulation register as well in the near future”, Dewapura pointed out.
(From left) ICTA Re-engineering Government Prgramme Director Wasantha Deshapriya. Telecommunication and Information Technology Ministry Secretary Nimal A. Atukorala, Senior Minister for Urban Affairs A. H. M. Fowzie, Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister W. D. John Seneviratne, Colombo Additional District Registrar Niluka Gamage and Registrar General E. M. Gunasekera (in the rear) on the occasion of printing a birth certificate and a certificate issued for the registration of a person in the Population Register.
This article is carried in Daily FT of 11th June 2012.