Aldwyn Wayne wants to facilitate Government’s e-identification programme. And he wants to do it for free. The local tech entrepreneur and CEO of TT-based regional e-payments company WiPay, recently signed a deal with global fintech giant Mastercard, giving WiPay access to resources and technology while allowing Mastercard a strong foothold in the region.
Part of that tech is a chip card that can not only be used as a form of national identification but also used to make payments – point-of-sale or online transactions – and withdraw money from ATMs – basically anywhere that accepts Mastercard.
“Every citizen of TT is entitled to an ID card and now your ID card can work as an ATM or point-of-sale card… This is more than a tech story. It’s the pivot that everyone is being forced to make – more so because of covid19. If your national ID card can verify you online then there’s no reason to ever have to meet anyone face to face, reducing contact,” Wayne told Newsday in a phone call Saturday.
Government has pledged digital transformation as one of its key manifesto points and the Roadmap to Recovery lists e-IDs as one of the innovations to improve government services through technology.
While WiPay hasn’t formally pitched the proposal to Government yet, he said launching this project in TT with the support of Mastercard at no cost to taxpayers is part of WiPay’s corporate social responsibility. An e-ID like this one, he said, means more people, like the unbanked or underbanked, can be incorporated into the financial system. Government payments – like pensions, grants or tax refunds – can be directly loaded onto the card, saving people, especially the elderly, the time it takes to line up in a bank to cash a cheque. And during covid19 and social distancing protocols, being able to stay put and reduce the chance of exposure is important. An e-ID is also difficult to clone or forge, so tasks like applying for a driver’s permit or passport can now be done online without having to show up in person to verify one’s identity.
This is brand new technology, Wayne said, and TT would be among the first countries in the world to utilise such a system. Currently, only Nigeria has an e-ID card that works similarly to what Wayne is proposing, and that is also powered by Mastercard tech. (Estonia's e-ID, often used by Government as the gold-standard, doesn't have banking capabilities, he noted). And he said, WiPay has signed agreements with two other Caribbean countries to launch a similar e-ID project but could not say which since the deals have not yet been publicly announced.
Another selling point is that because WiPay is a TT company and has a direct link to Mastercard, facilitating the project will mean less of the country’s critical foreign reserves will be needed since it will be done in TT for the TT market.
“Yes, this is technology (in action), but it’s also beyond that because this will affect every citizen. It’s huge news,” he said.