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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Defective MyKads

JUST imagine the efficiency of the country’s administrative system whereby all information, including the marital record of an individual, can be accessed in a split second through a smart card.

In the MyKad, for instance, the date and place of marriage as well as the current marital status of an individual are stated. Such information can certainly help the authority quickly and effectively solve cases involving ‘matters of the heart’.

Moreover, the information can be useful to those who have lost their marriage certificate and are in need of a new one.

Many aspects, considered equally important, are said to have been incorporated in the MyKad which replaced the identity card (IC). These include details of driving licence, passport information, health status, e-cash, touch and go card, automatic cash withdrawal (ATM) and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

The MyKad was mooted by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who wanted to create an electronic government with less usage of paper. It was first introduced in November 2000 and officially launched by then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Sept 5, 2001.

The main objective of MyKad is to facilitate all transactions through a computer electronic system which is much more economical and safe. With advanced technology, transactions involving government agencies and the private sector can be done faster and with no fear of cheating.

This is because the PKI, incorporated in the smart card, is aimed at increasing the quality of the card’s safety features besides giving holders the confidence to carry out business transactions via the card or the Internet.

Nowadays, if a person is dealing with a bank or Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), the officer-in-charge can immediately see and read the client’s fingerprint online for authenticity verification, thus avoiding the hassle of having to refer to the National Registration Department (NRD). Indeed, the MyKad is more than just an identity card.

All Malaysians hold a MyKad — a breakthrough technology implemented to bring Malaysia to the new era of technology.

The country can now be proud of having one of the most advanced systems in the world with the biometric MyKad, which has a chip containing all sorts of information about the holder.

Yes, it looks good and consolidates your identification and licence information and though it has many other applications, it is still not 100 per cent. So it should come as no surprise that many MyKads have been found to be faulty.

Now, most banks and driving schools have the card readers and probably only they can help clients detect if their MyKad is faulty.

A complainant, who only wished to be identified as Molad, said he only discovered his MyKad was faulty when opening a savings account with a bank in Kuching.

“My friend issued me a crossed cheque which had to be banked into my personal savings account but I didn’t have one then.

“So I went to the bank to open one but was told my Mykad could not be read,” he related.

Another holder known as Wilder was registering for a driving course in Kuching when he discovered the defects in his MyKad chip.

He had to pay RM20 for an alternative card and get his details registered with the Road Transport Department. Since he could be registered that way, he didn’t bother to change his MyKad.

A few months later, he went to open a savings account and was told he needed to change his MyKad as the chip could not be read.

Meanwhile, Ahong whose MyKad was also found to be faulty when he opened a savings account, lamented: “I just can’t understand it. They talk about having the most advanced technology but the defect in the chip does not reflect the high quality they are mentioning.”

These three complainants were not the only cardholders to have encountered defects. Many more had claimed they were facing the same problem.

Some noted that their photographs were fading even though their cards were brand new while there were also complaints of damaged plastic cards.

According to a state NRD source, the department is aware of many cards, especially the early batches, having some problems. However, it could not give the exact count on replacements in Sarawak.

“Many have applied for replacements. Poor handling and keeping are among the causes of defective chips and damages. The card should not be exposed to heat because this not only can spoil the chip but also the plastic and photo,” the source said.

“The chip cannot be kept in a hot place like in a car for too long and it has to be kept clean.”

A defective card can be replaced for RM10.

As reported in June last year, about 10 per cent of the 24 million MyKads issued since 2001 had been replaced after they were found to be faulty.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said most of the cases were recorded last year — with 888,495 replacements issued until October.

He said the main complaints were defective chips or damaged plastic cards.

Last year, the number of replacements stood at 769,674 and 204,572 in 2006.

In 2001, it was 32,670, followed by 24,131 in 2002, 16,678 (2003), 22,484 (2004), and 45,487 (2005).

Speaking to reporters after launching the MyDaftar programme at the International Youth Centre in Cheras earlier in the week, Syed Hamid said he was not happy with the number of faulty cards recorded, pointing out that the low number of damaged or defective MyKads in the first year (2001) compared to this year was due to the chip-based cards being made on a pilot project basis.

When it was pointed out that the number had jumped by almost twentyfold since 2005, he said: “The only explanation I can give you is the rollout.

“Coverage is more extensive. But I think this needs to be improved.”

He added that the National Registration Department (NRD) was continuously looking at ways to upgrade the MyKad — from security features to even the plastic compound used.

The MyKad is a piece of seven-layered plastic with an embedded microchip and has the dimensions of a standard credit card.

The original card is said to contain a 32Kb EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) chip running on the M-COS (MyKad Chip Operating System) operating system.

In November 2002, the capacity was increased to 64Kb.

A register of all cardholders is kept by the NRD, which operates the MyKad system.

Malaysian citizens own a blue coloured card while that for permanent residents is red.

The MyKad project is said to have been developed at a cost of RM276 million and was originally intended to have four functions — identity card, including fingerprints and photo, driving licence, passport and storage for health information.

However, four more applications are said to have been added before or during its initial release.

These are e-cash (though with a limit of US$500, intended for low value but high volume transactions), ATM integration, Touch ‘n Go (Malaysia’s toll road tolling system and also public transport payment system) and digital certificate, commonly known as PKI (only supported by the 64kb version implemented by the end of 2002).

Presently, most of the functions are still not widely used because they are not widely promoted.


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