Zimbabwe — The Home Affairs Department that You Deserve

  • Free Birth Certificate — issued on the day of birth
  • Free National Identity Document (ID)— issued on the day of birth, updated online every 5 years.
  • Free Passport — issued on the day of birth, updated and renewed every 5 years
  • Free VISA upon arrival — to anyone from anywhere in the world, with or without a passport, as long as they have a national ID from their birth country.
  • Cross-syncing of databases — the home affairs database to be synced to every other government and non-government database.
  • Blockchain-enabled digital identity
  • Capacitated Police Services — a small well-paid police service leveraging on technology.

You deserve a better system. If your government cannot offer you the basic services that confer you with citizenry rights for free, that government is a fraud.

Citizenship by Birth Should be Granted Automatically without an Application

If the government cannot give you a birth certificate, a national ID, and a passport for free, then you should stop paying taxes. What are they using the tax money for? The most basic thing they could use the tax money for is to identify their citizens. You should not be paying taxes and then paying another fee to be officially regarded as a citizen. You should not pay anything to be a citizen.

Every child born in Zimbabwe deserves to be issued a free birth certificate, at the time of birth. The medical practitioners (nurses, midwives, etc.,) should be able to capture all the relevant data needed for processing a birth certificate. The birth record and birth certificate can be morphed into one document. Information is parsed to the home affairs database, and officials there double-check, cross-reference, and issue a birth certificate.

A digital version can be sent to the mother of the child and the place of birth (clinic, hospital). The printed version can be printed and collected at home affairs booths stationed at major hospitals and government offices across the country. The process can be streamlined. It can be very efficient yet secure without costing the government an arm and a leg.

At the same time, a passport can be issued at the time of birth using the same set of information and processes as the birth certificate.

A national ID, since it is issued to those above a certain age, can be issued automatically once the child reaches that age. The system only needs to be updated with more recent photographs, eye scans, and fingerprints. The national ID is issued digitally and physically. It should be collected at the printing booths around the country.

For repetition’s sake — no one born in Zimbabwe needs to apply for a birth certificate, passport, and ID. It's their birthright. They need to be issued with these documents. Their parents don't even need to apply. Citizenship by birth is not something that can be granted upon application, it's granted by the birth act. The documentation processes need to reflect this reality.

Cross-syncing of databases

You should be able to swipe or scan your ID card, and grant access using either a pin or an app on your phone, and all the information pulls through. The bank should not ask you to complete a KYC form, where you type in all your bio-data. They should be able to access all this info from the home affairs database or from scanning your ID.

Most of the frustrations with government bureaucracy emanate from the countless poorly-designed forms that people have to complete. With some forms, you end up writing your name and surname more than 5 times. “Wait, but I have just written my name on the previous page”, “oh sorry Johny, this page will go to another department whilst this one stays with us, so we need your name on both”.

The bureaucracy is frustrating. It's as if government systems and processes are intentionally designed to frustrate. Databases should be synced to the home affairs master database. It's a very simple process, but the bureaucrats and the Negative Nancies will tell you it's not that simple, it's risky, it's complicated.

A very simple REST API could get rid of a million frustrations. A few lines of code could save the entire country millions of minutes wasted in filling-forms. It's so simple that a first-year IT student can do it. Even a 16-year-old girl teaching herself how to code can easily connect the banking system to the home affairs API and fetch live bio-data.

This is what you deserve; interconnected and integrated databases. But you don't have it because the bureaucrats in power deliberately create and preserve inefficiencies and bottlenecks in order to preserve the box-ticking and paper-shuffling jobs of their friends and relatives.

Free VISA upon arrival

People oppose open borders based on unfounded fears, lies, and propaganda. What could go wrong if you open your borders for anyone to come in? They will tell you that all sorts of undesirable characters will flock into the country. So what? You have the police to arrest any criminal, that's what they are for.

The proportion of undesirable characters that will flock into the country is so minute in relation to the number of good and decent people that will come in, bring in their monies to spend, and bringing their skills and expertise to undertake any trade. Governments want control and power. Closing borders is just an obsession with control.

Most of the time, it does not really deter the undesirable characters from coming in, because they are highly motivated to flee from wherever they are fleeing. Criminals move in and out of many countries easily, even in the presence of closed-border policies. The restrictions only serve to frustrate decent people.

An open-door policy with a Free VISA upon arrival policy on top is the surest way to turbo-charge trade, travel, and tourism. The greatest benefit will accrue to domestic people who get to interact with the whole wide world. They get to trade, exchange ideas, form friendships, get a broader understanding of the world and live better overall.

Capacitated Police Services

It is better to have a small number of police officers who are well paid and dignified than to try and turn every unemployed ghetto youth into a police officer.

In reality, not a single one of the existing police officers has to be retrenched. As long as resource leakages are plugged, there will be enough money to pay every police officer a decent salary. And there will be more to capacitate the police with technologically advanced tools to tackle crime and enforce the law.

Blockchain-enabled digital identity

The current identity system is analog whilst the online world is digital. This causes us frustrations because most of the time we cannot easily verify the validity or identity of the counterpart we are engaging with. Trolls and shadow figures prey on us.

Moreover, in cases where we have to verify our identity, we have to scan our analog identities, get them into electronic format (go digital), and then upload them onto the internet platform that we use. It ought not to be so. Identity should also go digital.

The Home Affairs policy we deserve has to explore ways to bring this into fruition. It has to make use of the blockchain in building tamper-proof infrastructure for issuing IDs.

An identity that is issued on plastic cards and paper-based booklets worked well before 2010. Even though some of these IDs have scannable barcodes and some have machine-readable contactless chips, they are still not easily usable online. Using the blockchain, home affairs could bring finality to the issue of trusted identities on the internet.

Numerous benefits can arise from a blockchain-based identity system, especially if other governmental systems such as benefits programs, the deeds office, and tax systems are on the blockchain as well. The private key could drastically reduce government overheads in administering programs. It could also eliminate fraud, reduce corruption, and make life easier for everybody.

A blockchain-based digital identity will be crucial in smart contracts. Virtually all of the contracts we have in life could be replaced with smart contracts. Forgery could be totally eliminated. The greatest benefit would be transparency, with all government transactions openly available on the blockchain. Yes, they ought to be publicly available because they are public (i.e., not private).

Microsoft has completed trials on a digital identity system that’s built on the bitcoin blockchain. In its full manifestation, the digital identity system could replace the current online identity verification systems we use such as emails, cell phone numbers, and passwords. That’s the general direction we ought to take. The leap from our 1950’s Oldowan paper-based systems into blockchain digital identity will be too much.

Blockchain-enabled digital identity is a medium-term goal. A number of Zimbabweans are already working on blockchain-enabled e-government solutions.

Funding

The truth is we already have the funding. We do not need a higher allocation of resources to Home Affairs for these good things to happen. The current allocation is more than enough.

Instead of asking do we have enough money, a better question would be: How is the money allocated to Home Affairs being used?

The current 2021 budget allocated USD 287 million to Home Affairs. Dedicating $50 million of that to free birth certificates, free IDs, free passports and free VISAs upon arrival will help the nation. The balance of USD237 could be dedicated to police services and other functions.

It's amazing how much $50 million can do? It's enough to build an entirely new identity system with servers, computer networks, printers, etc. The funds are in the wrong hands. These passports can be generated and printed for less than $2. The corrupt bureaucrats will tell it's impossible and you believe them. They charge you $50 and still fail to deliver passports in time.

What happens to the allocation they get from the Ministry of Finance?. #DemLoot. The carcass left after looting is utilized in maintaining the heavy bureaucratic machinery.

All those paper-shufflers and box-tickers need to be paid. 80% of the Home Affairs employees are good-for-nothing and need to be entrenched. They are wasting our money. Box-ticking and paper-shuffling are bad in the technological era. But even before the advent of technology, they were not good at box-ticking and paper-shuffling. Most of their working hours are consumed by lunch-breaks, tea-breaks, and smoke-breaks, leaving very little time for actual work.

A lean, thin, sleek, technology-enabled Home Affairs department will be able to offer everyone a free service using minimal resources. The Home Affairs department that you deserve costs the fiscus less money and yet it provides the highest benefits without paying anything over and above the contribution you make to the fiscus in the form of tax.

Don't buy into the lie that we don't have money for all of this. We do have the money. The question is where is the money that could be doing all of this going?

Ciao!

Financial Analyst, Cloud Accountant, Citizen Data Scientist, FPL Boss

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