Monday, 2 August 2010

Oman to equip ID card with electronic payment features

The Sultanate of Oman is going to link e-payment options to national ID Cards, the Oman Information Technology Authority (ITA) has announced. 

Under the 'e-Purse system', introduced last year to promote cashless and electronic payments in the Sultanate, ID cards will be equipped with payment features using an embedded application in the Smart chip on the ID card. According to Muhanna Moosa Baqer, ITA’s e-Payments Manager, “ID cards can soon be used for paying fees, driving licences, shopping, phone subscriptions, visa applications, parking and tollgate fees”. 

“[Oman] puts a contactless e-purse on the national ID card as a way to kick-start the shift to cashless environments”, said David Birch, Director of Consult Hyperion. “As well as providing an alternative to debit and credit cards, it will help government departments to collect their payments.” The e-Purse system was introduced in May 2009. The first phase of this national e-wallet system began in July last year, allowing Omani citizens and residents to upload and store money on their national ID cards, in order to pay government and police bills. In the next few months, the system will be rolled out further.  ITA stated that all major banks in Oman are participating so retailers will be able to collect payments via the ID card. “This is a prime example of how government agencies and private institutions can partner to improve services to the public”, said Bruce Palmer, Managing Partner of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost’s Muscat office. Abdullah Al Kalbani, Captain of the Royal Oman Police, said: “Since it is mandatory for every adult resident in Oman to have a national ID card this will help those citizens in Oman who have no bank accounts, who do not carry debit or credit cards”. 

Mr Kevin Wong, General Manager of Astute Pte Ltd, the Singaporean company that is behind the development of the new Omani ID card, said: “The company is in discussions with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan for a similar service”.  

“The future of payments is the future of identity”, adds David Birch. “One could envisage, whether you think it is a good idea or not, a simple universal payment scheme that is linked to a single universal identity, a kind of galactic PayPal in which everyone participates.”

Michiel Willems (c) 2010 - Published earlier in E-Finance & Payments Law & Policy, July 2010 issue. London, UK