Passport upgrade aims to reduce IT complexity

Facial recognition and bio-data chips will be features of the planned new, highly automated passport application system

The Department of Internal Affairs aims to reduce the complexity of its legacy technologies and also make system change easier when it redevelops New Zealand’s passport system.

The redevelopment is the second part of a major security-related upgrade and is described as a core initiative for the department. The project also fits within the State Services Commission’s and the Treasury’s definition of a major IT project.

In November 2005, DIA rolled out its first e-passports, which contained a chip linking passport holders to a digitised version of their photograph and other bio-data already held on the passport.

“Alongside the introduction of the e-passport we will be replacing the existing passport system which was rolled out in1992,” said passport manager David Philp at the time. “The new system will provide a higher level of security and processing ability. Over time, it will make the passport renewal process simpler for customers.”

The current core passport-processing system was implemented 15 years ago and is driven by the paper application form, according to a department request for information. Internal Affairs says the technical environment has grown in complexity over the years as new business requirements have led to the development of add-on technologies such as facial-recognition checking.

As a result, multiple technologies now support the issuing of passports. Making system changes is relatively complex, the department says in its detailed request for information document.

Internal Affairs has gone to tender for a prime contractor for the redevelopment. The successful bidder will also be responsible for systems integration.

The department’s key requirements are that any system must meet anticipated demand volumes, which are expected to nearly double over the next seven years; enhance identity-verification processes; and increase focus on integrity, including implementation of more sophisticated fraud-prevention and detection capabilities.

Facial recognition and bio-data chips will be features of the planned new, highly automated passport application system. An applicant’s personal information will be printed on the bio-data page of the passport, and the applicant’s bio-data details will then be encoded on a contactless integrated chip within the e-passport.

The department says the business process model for the future is built on a number of key technology enablers, including document scanning and character recognition, rules-based processing, workflow automation and facial recognition.

DIA says the project will result in significant changes to business processes, systems and the organisation. Its view is that discrete business processes and solution components will have to be introduced incrementally, because trying to implement all the changes in one go runs the risk of production targets not being met.

No time-line has been given for completion of the redevelopment project. A decision on the lead contractor is expected in May.

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