Sri Lankan Cabinet, early this week, decided in favour of prioritizing the implementation of the Unitary Digital Identity Framework or UDIF.
A media statement released by the Department of Government Information stated that this framework “is expected to introduce a personal identity verification device based on biometric data, a digital tool that can represent the identities of individuals in cyberspace, and the identification of individual identities that can be accurately verified in digital and physical environments by combining two devices”.
UDIF is modelled on the Aadhaar program in India. This initiative came post the 2019 bilateral talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
President Rajapaksa’s proposal of signing a Memorandum of Understanding with India to get a grant from the country for the continuation of the project has been approved by the Sri Lankan Cabinet.
However, cyber experts have voiced concerns over the issues of data localization, lack of data protection laws, and risks of cybersecurity in the light of UDIF.
Another issue worth paying attention to is the implementation challenges that will arise. Asela Waidyalankara, a former executive committee member of Sri Lankan Cyber Security Center of Excellence, commented that “there is no concentrated traceability of citizen information and data. And this has always been a challenge in terms of digitizing any government service in Sri Lanka”.
He further states, “Recognizing this data (those records stored in physical or analog form), digitizing it and capturing people’s biometrics is something the government needs to figure out.”
India has been providing ongoing economic assistance to the country, rounding up to nearly $1.4 billion since the start of 2022. This aid is mainly towards helping Sri Lanka to cope with the problem of importing food, medicines, and fuel during shortages and the dollar crunch.
The exact amount of the aid or whether India will provide technological support to the project is still unclear and being worked out.
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