Source: Information Technology Technical Secretariat (ITTS)

The issuance of Royal Decree 66/99 established the constitution of a new Civil Status Register and the creation of an Electronic ID card. The Royal Oman Police (ROP), which is the local Omani authority managing the project, made a decision to launch a smart card-based ID programme, not only to enhance the country's identification processes, but also to improve its IT infrastructure.

Main objectives of the programme were to:

» Modernise the National Registry System

» Simplify and speed up administrative processes

» Provide better qualitative public services to Omani citizens and residents

» Pave the way to e-government services

» Strengthen citizens' identification security

The ROP's objective was to build a state of the art solution and to offer best-of-breed services to the citizens and residents of Oman. After a strict and professional bid tender selection process managed by the ROP, in October of 2002, the contract was awarded to deliver the first smart card-based identity solution ever to be deployed in the region.

The contract was to provide an integrated turnkey solution comprising of hardware, software and smart cards as well as training and skill transfer services to the ROP staff. Over the next five years ROP will issue approximately 1.5 million smart identification cards to OmanÕs citizens and expatriates above the age of 15.

In order to achieve its ID programme objectives, Oman chose to capitalise on the security and convenience advantages enabled by smart chip card technology. Smart cards provide the ideal means to store and manage identity credentials:

» Highest level of security with unrivalled storage capabilities

» Interactive technology with ability to update, delete, add and compute data

» Enables on-line/off-line authentication and digital signatures

» Bridges physical and digital worlds as the same card can be used for identification in both on- and off-line mode

» Convenient form-factor capable of handling visual security printed features

» High durability of ID card

» Multi-application and post-issuance capabilities

» Oman is using the relevant components of ResIDent ID Solution. They have been carefully customised and integrated to meet the specific requirements and needs of the


» PET card body

» Card body security features

» Smart card modules, OS and applets design

» Smart card readers (PC)

» Biometrics (fingerprint recognition) delivered by third party technology partner

» Enrolment solution (enable to capture demographics, picture, fingerprints etc.)

» Personalisation services

» Consulting, Software Development, Integration, Training and Maintenance services

» Fully Arabic and English software user interface

One of the biggest challenges in the project was to build a National Registry System (NRS). NRS is the central population database that allows the country to build a record with data collected from different databases where data is stored per category, e.g. pictures, fingerprints, demographics etc. Previously Oman did not have such a population registry service in place.

Through the new National Registration System (NRS) authorities can now register details for each Omani and foreign resident (i.e. births, marriages, divorces and deaths), in a single centralised system. Data is collected in real-time in regional offices (12 initially) where each citizen can receive his/her ID card within just half an hour.

The creation of NRS is an integral part of Oman’s ID programme, and will act as the pillar of the country’s future e-government initiatives. Based on the NRS, the country’s regional enrolment and issuance centres possess the components to operate:

» Registration/Enrolment operations

» Civil Events Certificate Issuance (e.g. births, marriages etc.)

» Smart Card Personalisation and Issuance

» The multi-purpose cards are fitted with a biometrics-based ID system for enhanced security and contain all the holder's particulars: name, address, fingerprints etc.

» Cardholders are able to use their smart ID card in order to visually and electronically identify themselves at various authorities all over the country and through mobile terminals carried by members of the ROP.

» The ID card supports the following applications:

» Driving License

» Passport

» Work permit

» Over time the very same ID card will be able to host additional applications, such as:

» PKI authentication and Digital signatures

» e-purse

» Healthcare Card

» e-voting

Getting the electronic ID card is quick and easy. The main steps involve verification, registration and issuance, and takes place at the regional enrolment and issuance centres. First, the authenticity of an individual’s identity documents is verified. When validated the data is entered into the NRS. After reviewing the entered information, the applicant signs the registration documents. Next the applicant’s picture and fingerprints are captured and stored on the card. The card is finally issued and given to the citizen/ expatriate.

In full compliance with the current worldwide trend, Oman selected chip technology based on Java Card. By using Open Platform technology, the ID cards become more versatile in terms of functionality, as it allows several applications to reside on the very same card. Applications can easily be upgraded, removed or added onto the card over time, so called ‘post-issuance’, giving the ID document a longer lifespan as it eliminates the need to issue a new card every time a citizen’s personal information changes.

Both the Omani government and its population can benefit from the establishment of its secure nationwide ID programme - for instance, it offers:

» Improved Security

» Clean population database

» Streamlined administration

» Enhanced services to citizens

» Reduced identity fraud

» Enabler of e-government applications

» Strengthen IT infrastructure

» Durable and versatile identification documents

The ROP pursued an aggressive time plan that aimed for issuance of the first smart ID card beginning of 2004, with nationwide roll-out in the summer. According to schedule, the first card was issued to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said on January 03, 2004.