PNG ELECTORAL OFFICIAL DISMISSES BIOMETRIC ID IN 2012

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System requires ‘massive awareness,’ trials before usage

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 1, 2012) – The proposed Unique Identification Card system (UID) will not be used in the coming elections, Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen has announced.

This is because it would require a whole new voter enrollment exercise to be conducted nationwide, as it required photographs and fingerprints of electors to go with their demographic data.

Mr. Trawen also said in a conference yesterday that in order for the biometrics system to be introduced into the PNG elections, the Electoral Roll must be accurate.

He said that at present PNG Electoral Commission (PNGEC) was putting together the demographic data of voters in preparation for the implementation of biometrics, possibly in the 2017 national general elections.

"These ideas are not new as they have been around for over a decade now and we have considered them and will come up with a system that is workable for PNG," Mr. Trawen said.

"Biometrics and other technologies have major risks, and the biggest risk is trust. Who is to trust people who claim that they can solve our Electoral Roll problems, as it is easy to manipulate and control the outcome of an election through such technology," he said.

Mr. Trawen said that there was a need to use technology to assist in elections, but this must be done with proper preparation, trials, checks and balances and with opportunities for abuse and manipulation eliminated.

He advised that the team of experts from the Unique Identification Authority (UIA) of India that visited recently have highly recommended that the unique identification card system (UID), which was approved by the National Executive Council, should be piloted or trialed out first before it was implemented nationwide.

He said that the team Leader and Deputy Director General of India’s UID Authority, B. B. Nanawati, also stressed the need for massive awareness and voter education exercise to take place, as they were vital for the people to understand the purpose of UID if it was to be successfully implemented in PNG.

Mr. Nanawati and his team of experts were in PNG last month at the invitation of the National Government and met with Mr. Trawen and his senior management team on January 23 on the UID system.

The Indian experts said it took 18-24 months for the UID system to work in India.

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