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Friday, January 25, 2008

Makerere’s computerised Identity cards frustrate impersonaters

Makerere has moved a step ahead with the introduction of new student Identity Cards. This comes after the university computerized its operations with computerized IDs changed to suit the information and communication technology (ICT.)

The identity cards cost Shs11,200 and are issued to students after registration. However one must go through the rigorous registration exercise before getting the identity card. And after registration, a student will not receive the identity card immediately as a registration print out which is a prerequisite to getting identity cards is always delayed.

Apart from students complaining that such identity cards are charged abnormally, there is also a problem where many are denied access to library books because they don't have the new identity cards. This comes at a time when course works and tests are the order of the day; not forgetting that exams are around the corner.

Nevertheless, the new identity cards are sophisticated. They come with a cardholder, and are designed to shimmer. When you hold it to the sun, a world map is reflected. Also, the background has the university's main building.
Other features on the card include the university emblem, a chip, and the Academic Registrar's signature. Like any other identity card it holds the student's photograph, and expiry date.
This new identity card has the student's number unlike the old ones. For security measures, a unique characteristic such as a fingerprint and a student's signature are included to limit forgery and impersonation.
The identity cards, which are the first of their kind at the Ivory Tower, are the size of the ATM card. According to Alex Watila, one of the officials dealing out the same identity cards, they are done by specialists outside Uganda and are quality assured.
"These identity cards work like ATM cards that store a certain amount of data. With time, the university wants to put ATM machines, so you can access any information you want as long as you have user rights," he says.
Makerere is about to completely computerize all its systems. This means that there will be an online data collection and students will in the near future, be able to use these identity cards and access the information through a database recorded on the Internet provided the student has a password that will give him the exclusive rights to log in.
The advantage the new identity card has over the old one is that it cannot be forged and has solved the problem of congestion at issuing centres. On average, 200-500 students are issued with identity cards a day. Three standing cameras do this job; with three computers, all the attendants do is to monitor the process. A student just stands in front of the camera as his or her picture is projected on the computer screen.The student is also given the opportunity to choose the picture he or she wants on his identity card.
On the other hand, the delicate identity cards are made out of hard plastic and must be handled carefully lest they get spoilt quickly.
They are also renewable per year at a fee of 2000 shillings. This is one of the major weapons the authorities are using at the university to beat the rate of impersonaters that was becoming unbearable in the recent past.
The students in Makerere can now be rest assured the administrators are committed to taking Makerere to a new level.
Published in Daily Monitor, December 13, 2004