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Mon Dec 05 18:39:42 CAT 2016

Partnership for smart cards is smart thinking

The Times Editorial | 2016-04-08 00:36:30.0

It is a welcome move by government to partner with the banking sector in order to extend public services to the people.

Yesterday the Department of Home Affairs launched its E-channel pilot project, which allows South Africans to apply for smart ID cards and passports at financial institutions.

By teaming up with the Big Four banks - Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Standard - the department is presenting a new face to the nation, and that is good news.

The government should be seeking out other ways to tap into private-sector expertise and functionality to improve its own performance.

Hopefully the nightmare experience of service in a Home Affairs office will become a thing of the past.

For years citizens have endured shoddy service, waiting for hours to be served. And thereafter forms would get lost, mistakes would be made in paperwork and the wait for a final document would drag on for months.

Let's hope Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba can persuade some of his colleagues to follow his example.

One quibble is that the document application service is not being offered by the Post Office. This might have been a smart move as the Post Office has branches scattered across the entire country, including in rural areas.

Greater official use of the rehabilitating Post Office might also help that institution transform itself into a modern operation that can compete with the private sector.

The millions of rands we are continuing to pour into the Post Office should at least be to the benefit of the people. The Post Office might be an object of derision to many, but political will and a sound turnaround vision could see it again play an important role in our lives.

The minister tells us that the new online document process will take two weeks from application to collection and smart card forms are already being accepted from citizens aged between 30 and 35 in Gauteng and in Cape Town as part of a pilot project.

Let's embrace the new way.

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