What Info Shall/May Be Included in the #NIDS Database? – What the NIDS Bill Now Says

Another helpful set of points by a diligent Susan Goffe on the newly passed Act covering the National Identity Document System (NIDS). Sadly, in my opinion, it points to another set of questions that cannot yet be answered about how the NIDS system will operate.

Right Steps & Poui Trees

Whether you support the proposed National Identification System (NIDS) unreservedly or oppose it absolutely or fall somewhere in between, it would be useful to know what information the NIDS Bill passed on November 21, 2017, allows to be collected and stored in the Database. The list of information is set out in the Third Schedule of the Bill and the current Third Schedule is different in a number of respects, when compared with the original Bill tabled in the House on March 21 this year.

In the original Third Schedule, all information to be collected was mandatory. The current Third Schedule distinguishes between information which will be mandatory and shall by included and other information which may be included, some of which will be voluntarily given if the person being registered so chooses. NIDS Third Schedule heading

Part A of the Third Schedule lists the Biographic Information to be collected, all of…

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Do socio-demographic factors explain high violent crime in the Caribbean?

With due credit to the IADB, I repost a blog post.


Do socio-demographic factors explain high violent crime in the Caribbean?

by Heather Suttonon November 22, 2017


In previous blogs about a recent study on crime in the Caribbean, we find that violent crime is uniquely high in the sub-region, and that the victims are mainly young, low-income males. With the study Restoring Paradise in the Caribbean: Combating Violence with Numbers (executive summary here), we have set out not just to characterize the situation of crime and violence in the Caribbean, but also, try to explain it. And we began by looking at socio-demographic factors:

Age and gender

So, if young males are more likely to be victims and perpetrators of violent crime, then maybe high violent crime in the Caribbean is explained by the high proportion of young males in the population. Figure 1 shows that there is a relationship between the homicide rate and the percentage of the population that is young and male worldwide (Spearman’s Rho = 0.47, P>0.05, n = 145). However, the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region has higher homicide rates than countries in other parts of the world, even with the same levels of young male populations.

Figure 1 -Percentage of the population young and male versus national homicide rates –

Source: Sutton and Ruprah 2017 using homicide data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime data and United Nations population data (2010).

Percent Urban and GDP growth

Given that urban areas have higher rates of victimization, we might imagine that countries with higher percentages of the population in urban areas would have higher crime rates. Similarly, we could theorize that increased wealth of a country (GDP growth) would lead a country to have lower crime rates. However, figures 2 and 3 show that Latin America and the Caribbean continue to stand out with higher levels of homicide than other countries with similarly urbanized populations and GDP growth rates. This suggests that the region is still more violent than it should be for the level of economic growth and age, gender, and urban composition of the population.

Figure 2- Percentage of the population that is urban versus national homicide rates

Sources: Sutton and Ruprah 2017 using data from the World Bank, World Development Indicators; and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime homicide data (2012).

Figure 3 – GDP growth versus national homicide rates

Sources: Sutton and Ruprah 2017 using data from the World Bank, World Development Indicators; and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime homicide data (2012).

But if these factors don’t completely explain the uniquely high levels of violent crime in the Caribbean, what does? Stay tuned for future blogs that will address this question focusing on tolerance of violence in the home, at-risk youth, neighbourhood characteristics, gangs, guns, and criminal justice institutions.

About the author:

Heather Sutton is an IDB consultant in Citizen Security. She is the Research Coordinator for several IDB projects on crime and violence in the Caribbean involving victimization surveys and surveys on Violence Against Women. Before coming to the IDB, Heather worked as a researcher, project manager and activist on the subjects of public safety, armed violence and gun control for the Brazilian NGO Instituto Sou da Paz. She holds a Master’s in Public Administration from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and a BA in International Affairs from Colorado University.

Read more blogs from Heather Sutton’s Crime and Violence series:

Is Crime in the Caribbean Unique?

What is missing from police crime statistics?

Who is most likely to be a victim of crime in the Caribbean?

Don’t believe your eyes: a short golfing story

When Conrad found the golf cart sitting by the edge of the hill, he was glad that he need not walk back to the clubhouse. He didn’t ask himself why it was there and who may be using it. It was hot and the tropical humidity was making him more tired than he had anticipated. He was also getting dehydrated.

He sat in the cart and pressed the accelerator. Why there was no beep to indicate it was in reverse may remain a mystery, as the cart flew backward over the hill.

The boys taking a short cut across the course, who found the man’s body, days after, looked at his score card and thought: ‘This golf is a cruel game.’ Conrad had just scored 10 on a par 3. That seemed justification enough to take his own life, they thought. 🙂

Identity crisis? Some personal reflections on a national identity document system

I like the idea of a national identity document (NID). My reasons for being a skeptic about NID proposals for Jamaica are more about competence and performance than principle, though there are issues of principles such as privacy that I do not think are as clear-cut as some would wish to suggest. My issues with competence is based on history: poor implementation has been a constant knock against Jamaica for much of its post-independence life. They also are based on what I see as a lack of preparation in the sense that things like integration of data don’t need a NID program to get going, but if they’ve waited on a NID program a lot of inefficiency and redundancy has been cemented into processes. I think there’s not enough evidence that the bases to which the NID may be tied have been made strong enough so far. My worry is that NIDs is a top-down approach, rather than a bottom-up one, and I find it hard to see how that approach will be successful. The image I have in my head is placing a heavy table top on legs that are not well-built; toppling over is more likely.

Current behaviour reflects some of these inefficiencies and redundancies, eg, the need for a traffic ticket amnesty rests on the simple gap between police records of fines issued and tax records of fines paid and that the gap is not visible in real-time so that the status of any road user who is transgressing is flagged immediately to the police officer who has noted the transgression. So, fines have no real bite. People know and understand that gap and naturally exploit it. I had a recent experience where the records of a transaction with the Customs authorities was not reflected automatically in the database at the Tax Administration, which required more person-hours in getting that updated. If time is money, then Jamaica is letting it dribble away. But, it’s not just ordinary citizens, but also those who operate the systems, which are known to be flawed, but still to them and are happy with that because it preserves their jobs.

So, my issues with competence and performance also go to why our economy performs poorly, how our productivity is impaired and why we do things that are more likely to make us poorer than we otherwise should be.

I’ve never lived anywhere where I’ve had to have a NID, though I’ve travelled to many places that had one, especially in Europe. I remember, from my first trip to France in the mid-1960s, how I was often fascinated on such travels to see people reach into wallets and purses to pull out a NID card (in France, carte nationale d’identité), often to prove who they were for some transaction, or engagement with a government official, including the police. I recall the near panic a friend had when he was not able to find his NID. Such cards could often be used for travel within the European Union, making real the notion of a borderless union. All of that spoke to an orderliness of affairs and uniformity that was good. In the UK, there was no such thing during my time there: we had various forms of ID, depending on age and circumstance, such as driver’s licences, passports, National Insurance numbers, National Health Service cards, each of which were the best available at the time, but only the passport had a picture. However, most things in life could be done without the need to show any of these, but to get certain services, one of them was likely to be necessary. Yet, funnily, to move through life one also did not have to prove without doubt who one was. Often, systems were self-validating: you exist in some official database already, therefore you are. So, I went from primary school to the world of work after university without having to prove unequivocally who I was. The only time I stumbled was when I had to prove what I was, and I thought I was British, but was not, according to the official documentation.

My story is a simple one, which I’ve told before. Born in the 1950s, I was British because Jamaica was a colony, part of The British Empire. I left Jamaica in 1961 with that status. Jamaica became independent in 1962, and my parents took steps to take Jamaican status (passport, mainly); they had rights to retain their British passports/citizenship at the time (and for several years after). I went with the flow, being a minor. I know of my British status, not least because I had travelled to England on my father’s passport. But, as happens, I felt some affinity to Britain as I was living there. No big thing, for a child. As I grew I was eligible for things British, including temporary overseas travel documents and importantly for me, being included in squads for national sporting representation. Fast forward.

I was offered a job at the Bank of England, for which one had to be a UK citizen. That’s when the penny dropped. Hastily, I had to regain my British status. No big deal, as I still was within whatever time limit existed for this, apart from a few trips to Somerset House to sign and seal the deal.

But, I knew I was also Jamaican, and to prove that I applied for and got a Jamaican passport through the High Commission in London. Therein lay the seeds of problems to come.

All my life, I had not needed to hang onto Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am); I existed and was flesh and blood and had been part of activities that were real. I was also Dennis Jones (as my parents wrote my name of every document I could read); all of my documents showed me with that spelling, including my Jamaican passport. But…Deep in some official vault was the other me…the real me, whom I did not know…Denis Jones. Fast forward, again.

I was living in the USA and working in Washington DC. My Jamaican passport needed renewing. The system now required proof of my existence, through my birth certificate. I got the document from my mother and sent it forward. Trouble! That document was NOT my birth certificate–it was what Jamaicans called a ‘birth paper’, merely registering the fact, but not the official certificate, AND it showed my name with one N not two. No real problem, though. I contacted the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) and they provided me with a computer-generated certificate, with 6 copies. Wow! Good to go. New, crisp, Jamaican passport, but with my name now with one N (remember the old one had two Ns).

Life moved on smoothly, until, I had to come back to Jamaica to live a few years ago and had to gain status here. Now, the two-headed hydra of the two Denis/Dennis reared its dreaded head. I was no longer who I thought I was! 99.9 percent of my life, as proved by documents and transactions was at ‘Dennis’, but Jamaica would have none of it. I was officially ‘Denis’ here, and so it must be. Well, sort of. I got a bank account (based on my birth certificate), then my TRN and from that my driver’s licence, and accepted the new official ‘me’, for Jamaican purposes. But, I could still go around as the other me, because my British passport proved me to be me, with two Ns. Fast forward, again.

I had to resolve the problem. Why? My good wife (as opposed to?) was worried that one of me would run into a problem. So, I re-engaged RGD and went through the simple process of having my name changed by deed poll. I am now officially ‘Dennis Jones’ for all Jamaican purposes (and also known as ‘Denis Jones’, but never mind him). My TRN was updated and from that my driver’s licence, so I was good to go, for most purposes.

I still have a few Jamaican documents that have me as ‘Denis’ because Jamaica also wants me to prove that I have a certain address so to make the simple change I have to do what I cannot do, which is prove where I live. Why? I moved. Because I am a creature of the Internet and all my bills come to be online, that doesn’t matter to my transactions, which go on in ‘the Cloud’ and nothing physically or actually comes to be at my place of abode. Utility bills are in my wife’s name. So, for Jamaican purposes I seem like a homeless person. The fact that all of my overseas financial information are linked to my new address matters not in Jamaica, where ‘rules are rules’. So, my voter’s ID needs to be updated, but… My Digicel and Scotiabank accounts, too, but… I don’t let that hamper me, as I use my phone and play with the banking system to my heart’s content without changing address for them.

I know I’m real!

Back in the day, when manual systems were king, a NID was important; with technological advances, we now know that the storage of data electronically is what is important. You are your data, including your biometric information. However, that is also one of the things that scares many people.

As I started writing, I noted that one of the ‘poster boys’ of NIDs, Estonia, is going through a security scare with its system having experienced a security breach that has compromised maybe 750,000 NID holders. Being ‘vulnerable to identity theft’ is not what makes people feel comfortable. Note the focus of the Estonian PM, Jüri Ratas, in a statement:

“The functioning of an e-state is based on trust and the state cannot afford identity theft happening to the owner of an Estonian ID card. As far as we currently know, there has been no instances of e-identity theft, but the threat assessment of the Police and Border Guard Board and the Information System Authority indicates that this threat has become real. By blocking the certificates of the ID cards at risk, the state is ensuring the safety of the ID card.”

The fault laying with the manufacturer of the chip is not the sort of thing that will make citizens any more at ease. So, when the Jamaican government makes the following claim, people will remain to be assured, especially as we do not yet have in place Acts on data protection and data sharing.

But I want to think about some of the other claims.

Does that ONLY exist with a NID? It’s interesting to contemplate that your actual existence is somehow being denied because of the absence of a NID. Surely, that right flows from the day you are born and that fact is registered? Isn’t that when your identity comes into force?

I wont pretend that unique identifiers are not important.

I wont go much further into the things that I think can go wrong in a country that has strong record of finding ways around many seemingly robust systems. Jamaicans have shown an astonishing knack for making Goodhart’s Law (named after Prof. Charles Goodhart, who was criticising UK monetary policy) come true:  “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” Put differently, in the so-called Lucas critique, named for Robert Lucas’s work on macroeconomic policymaking, argues that it is naive to try to predict the effects of a change in economic policy entirely on the basis of relationships observed in historical data, especially highly aggregated historical data. More simply, don’t expect your expected outcome to materialise. People adapt and anticipate.

One reason why NIDs work well in some countries is simply due to trust in institutions and decision-makers. Jamaican institutions and decision-makers are low on that trust ‘index’. Many would feel more at ease if they had seen clearly that trust being built to a high level for a good while.

Jamaica’s future? National reality TV set

For some time, my whimsical side has been dominating when thinking of ways to get out of the mire that is much of Jamaican daily life. In short, the economic and social Utopia that could and should have been ours, if we had had governments that did not ‘run with it’ but focused on building a vibrant and equitable society, could still be ours but by seeing something completely different for ourselves. Hold your breath. Jamaica is one big reality TV show, and if we embrace that, we could be shooting for the stars in no time. Now, I admit, it’s a wild idea that is going through my head but bear with me. Almost every day things happen on this island that seem too unreal to be true. But, in Jamaica, these seeming unrealities are real: they are our daily bread. What makes me laugh more is that we have people doing what they think are serious things but it’s just a scene in a farce. Let me give you a real and present example.

Yesterday evening, on our daily radio news and current affairs show, Beyond The Headlines, host Dionne Jackson-Miller was dealing with the latest in Jamaican crime horror: men dressed as police and driving a car with flashing blue lights had stopped and robbed a motorist on Sunday evening on East Kings House Road. Now, I’m not making light of the crime and the horror scenario that faces us if this becomes a trend. I am going to make light of how one of our ‘finest’, a police spokeswoman, saw the solution for the average motorist who may fall foul of this new scam. The officer suggested that, if the fake police signaled for a motorist to pull over, then various options should be tried, if one believes the police to be fake. Her preferred option was to somehow indicate to the cops that you were going to drive on to the nearest police station. Her assertion seemed to be that if these were real cops, they would understand and follow dutifully to then press the charges, and (I presume), if they were fake, they would hightail it instead of walking into a possible arrest. What could possibly go wrong? Well, it was clear that the lady did not have a clear idea of what she was really suggesting. Now, I will date myself by saying my mind rolled straight to a scene from the days of silent movies, from the Keystone Cops.

Dionne saw problems straight away and asked how the real police would know that the motorist had this plan and was not seeking to flee the scene. Wait for it! The police lady suggested signaling to any oncoming police car or other bystander that this was a ploy to go to a station. I presume the implication is that you carry a placard in your car that you can raise and wave out of the window reading ‘I’m heading to a police station. Don’t shoot!’ Well, that could be tricky to manage on a busy afternoon in Kingston, or if one were driving through Trelawny, where the likelihood of seeing another police officer or passing car is as rare as seeing an elephant knitting on the side of the road. Her other suggestion, when DJM queried the realism of the first offer, was to call 119 to alert police central command that you were ‘bringing in’ some police officers. Well, what I have heard of the responsiveness of that service is filed under ‘Don’t do this if your life depends on it’. The silent guffaws that could be heard on the radio set were deafening. But, the spokeswoman wasn’t done: she also suggested to use the StayAlert app. At that point, I had to pull false teeth out of the chicken foot soup that I was just drinking. Don’t worry about someone picking up the phone, just jump on the Internet superhighway. I’ve never used the app without data, but I hope it’s possible, because if not…

Now, I’ve presented these answers as if they came smoothly. They did not. They came after what seemed like a decade of reflection.

Did the officer really understand that if the fake cops were fake that this ruse would not work? Did she realise that real cops would be faced with the choice of apprehend more forcefully or apprehend much more forcefully. Maybe, what we need is a national roll-out of CB radios so that every motorist could speak over a dedicated channel to the police central command to report incidents.

Now, Jamaican police have earned a reputation for not being the most friendly and courteous and even been labeled in various ways for extrajudicial killings, so I presume that somehow the collective consciousness of society will be wiped clean of this when the suggested ruses are tried.

Somehow, I don’t see many motorists trying this. So, really what to do? I suspect that more suggestions will follow from both the JCF (after more reflection) or from the travelling public.

But, that was just a taster of what goes on for daily life. It’s the stuff that it’s hard to script, yet it gets trotted out every day. So, here’s my suggestion.

We need to revamp our tourism product and turn the whole country over to any and every television company that wants to come and film daily life in Jamaica, and the kicker (risky though it may be) will be to offer participation in these real-life events. So, we could have Minnie from Minnesota being taken on a drive so that she could be stopped and searched by Jamaican police. Or, we could have Orville from Orlando getting into an argument with a vendor in Coronation Market, and dealing with that on the fly. (We could have people prepped with audio so that they could get instant translations from Patois, for those tricky moments, that just don’t crop up in Peoria, such as ‘Let be beat some sense inna dis r*** c**** Hamerikan!’) We could offer attractive packages that had 3 days of sun and sand, followed by 3 days of ‘living the Jamaican life’, and one day of RR before heading back home (assuming nothing had gone wrong and a court date was added to the schedule.) These trips would have thrills and spills and authenticity aplenty.

Now, this may not be everyone’s idea of getting to know a country, but why not give it a try with some pilots in a few of our more interesting communities? We need to get buy-in from many agencies, but I’m sure that once they see the PR, job and income opportunities of being seen as part of rebuilding of Jamaica, they’d be falling over each other to sign up first. Taxi drivers (red plate or robots) with live audio and visual? ‘Small up yourself, sah! Road!’ The evening rush hour bus ride from Half Way Tree to Spanish Town? ‘Why you cock up you foot pon di seat an you see me a look siddung beside you?’ Riding at speed without a helmet (with or without flip-flops) from Montego Bay to Negril, with a stop at Rick’s Cafe? The options are almost limitless. Every community has something to offer. Instead of bucolic stuff like rafting on the Rio Grande, or the limited thrills of climbing Dunn’s River Falls or bobsleighing at Mystic Mountain, we could offer ‘being frisked in a ZOSO’. Can’t you see the excitement of people’s faces, knowing that this would be real, but only temporary?

Imagine: Selfies with squaddies. Wouldn’t that make friends want to fly to Jamaica in a heartbeat?

I’m not going to try to figure out how all of this would work and how it would be priced and all the insurance liability and diplomatic incidents to anticipate. But, our not-so-humdrum life would be a thrill-a-minute for anyone like Olaf from Oslo, coming from the deep midwinter of only four hours of daylight in Norway in December, to ‘let’s drive through potholes in St. Mary’, with warmth and the magic of roadside food along the way.

It’s a suggestion. If you think there’s a better way to get most of Jamaica wanting to be part of the solution let me suggest you come up with your own idea. I am going to draft a few letters to HBO and Netflix to use Jamaica as the setting for a series of reality series.

If you see me sipping gin and coconut water in Port Antonio sometime soon, remember, you had your chance to join me. 🙂

Not win-win, but win-loss: Some thoughts on St. Mary SE By-Election

JLP won and PNP lost support, in St. Mary SE, with the total vote increasing substantially, as many new voters were on the voting roll. The tiny margin for PNP from the 2016 general election turned into a near-1000 vote victory for JLP, meaning the approval gap between the parties widened massively in this seat.

JLP is no longer the party of Seaga, and is molding itself clearly in another image—maybe, it’s too early to say it’s the party of Holness, but he is developing a face that is markedly different. Part of that difference relates to how the leader and his party embrace communications, especially through social media, in a way that its main rival is still struggling to match. It’s a face that is in stark contrast to the (outdated and somewhat self-denying) stance taken by PNP—that party has badly abandoned its socialist roots–in terms of its being a voice of the people–a trend that was clearly evident by some of the arrogant disregard show for public opinion and governance of public money during several of its past tenures in government. (That’s beside the fact that the party presided well over an IMF program; it showed scant regard for good financial governance in many other areas.)

PNP often talked about ‘joined-up government’, yet displayed some of the most disorganized control of public affairs during the last administration. But, talk is cheap! Wasting money, isn’t. That’s maybe a highbrow observation, but more ‘low brow’ would be the fact that PNP didn’t really empathize that despite the macroeconomic success of the IMF program, there were many microeconomic disasters going on in people’s lives. The recently released 2015 poverty statistics make that clearer. There was much pain for the wider economic gain. That’s not uncommon, but little acknowledgement of it is really damaging, politically. It’s not enough for a political leader to say how she feels inflation, when most of life’s expenses are covered by the State. The referendum on PNP was clear from the 2016 general election, reinforced by recent local elections, and then stamped again in St. Mary. That is more significant, given the relatively high turnout (over 50%), in a seat where votes clearly mattered. (The ‘goings on’ in the garrison seats in St. Andrew tell us little about wider political sentiments, especially with the low voter turnout to ‘rubber stamp’ PNP candidates. One problem with just listening to the faithful is that you hear the song that you are playing yourself 🙂 )

JLP sensed this seething discontent (and it was not deeply-hidden) going into the 2016 election and fed on it with the promise of tax breaks. Despite its many arithmetic flaws, that promise of giveaways and easing of financial burdens resonated loudly.

PNP kept shooting itself in its own foot in St. Mary–most glaringly with its selection of a candidate whose credentials seemed to have been vetted by an adolescent intern, more intent on posting on Snapchat than checking for the potential damage that lay in the person’s resume. But, it also did its own bad pedicures with the way it handled candidate selections in the two St. Andrew by-election seats, the feud of one still simmering between Brown-Burke and Smith-Facey well into By-Election Day.

As an Opposition, the current PNP shows itself offering little of substance and with few resources to back any promises is in serious danger of making itself worse that irrelevant.

Put differently, a party with a one-seat majority in Parliament acted as if it had won a complete landslide. That’s because the Opposition has been toothless in words and deeds.

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