Nepal Government has a deadline to issue at least a machine readable passport (MRP) within four months (April 1, 2010). MRPs were around since 1980s and nobody in the concerned ministry bothered to convert our passports until it was too late. We are very fast in changing the logos on it and even debating in changing the flag but, shy of embracing the latest technology and trends.
Foreign ministry is selecting the company to print and supply devices for MRPs. By the time we finish moving to MRP passports, ePassport might be the new requirement. Lekhnath Pandey thought (or is it the Ã¢â‚¬ËœsourcesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢?) it would be better to go directly for ePassport instead of MRPs . It sure makes sense but isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it too much, too late ? I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t forget the failure of government to supply enough bank notes last Dashain.
Pandey has written that current passport costs $0.82 to print. But, MRP in other hand might cost as high as $20 per passport. Hey, isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it only two lines of extra text that could be read by machine? If the cost includes the machine infrastructure then it might make sense.
I believe, we would certainly need ePassport in the future. But are we capable of handling the biometric data? Do we have required expertise in security of data? One can argue if Somalia can have ePassport since 2006, why canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t we. That is not the whole story, some well off countries like India and Canada are still experimenting electronic features only on diplomatic passports. There are some security requirements on data handling and updating on the passport that canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be taken lightly.
Best bet for Nepal is to get going with MRP and initiate the work on ePassport too. Going for ePassport only is not possible for the following reasons:
- The government is inefficient in making right decision at right time. (Example – bank notes shortage, a few months back).
- The commission agreement might already have been sealed. (Sujata Koirala is well known for dealing with foreign companies. CanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t forget the Lauda air issue)
- First MRP then ePassport makes much more sense in terms of commission and corruption. (Nepal is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries by Amnesty International)
- Training manpower to handle security features of ePassport, installing and operating biometric scanning feature at airports would certainly require more than 4 months.
I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to cancel my trips due to the the failure of the government to issue passport.