Wow, Bahrain is advancing pretty well, huh? We now have 'smart' cards to be used for identification, instead of our regular old (idiot?) cards. But obviously, putting the matter of launching such a project in the good ol' hands of the Bahrain Ministries means something has to be done wrong. Or at best done pretty innefficiently.
So, my quest to get my brand new Smart Card started off about a month ago, when I got a new job, and my employer needed me to replace my current CPR. They mentioned that I had to contact the CIO (Central Informatics Organization) which sounds all brand and fancy, so I decided to give them a call. The conversation went a little like this (translated into English for readability purposes)
-Me: Hello, CIO?
-CIO Employee: ......
(distant chattering in background)
- Me: Umm... Ok, I need to get a new card, whats the procedure?
- CIO Employee: ... One second...
Yeah, come to our offices in Isa Town and get an appointment.
- Me: Ok. What paperwork do you need?
(distant chattering in background)
Yeah, we need your passport only.
- Me: Nothing else? Are you sure?
Yes, nothing else. Only your passport.
Ok, so after approx 4 or 5 minutes on the phone, I went away with these basic facts; take your passport and go to the CIO office to get an appointment. Fair enough.
So I went over the next day at around 8am, and the employee at the desk looked like a cross between a hairy camel and a dead plant. I wondered to myself if this is the best representation of our "Central Informatics Organization". I also figured, hey, looks could decieve, he might actually be a very bright individual. So I decided to test out his education/personality/whatever it is and asked him where I could get an appointment. In English. Right then and there I found out, looks don't always decieve, as he looked at me with discontent and replied; "no abbointeh-ment here"
Me: "Umm... Ok, the guy on the phone told me to come here.. Can't I just get an appointment now since i'm here?"
Him: "No aBBoinTEment here. NO ABBOINntEMent hERe!"
Whoa, calm down dude. "Could you be as so generous to let me know where I can get a (bloody?) appointment."
Him: "You go weBEsite and But your C.B.R. number."
Me: "Whats the website?"
Him: "Outside on Boster."
Ok, I just wasted an hour or so going and coming to the CIO according to the instructions I got from the employee on the phone, but no big deal. So I took down the website, went home and got an appointment. Simple site to work on, but the nearest one was a week away. So a week later I go down with my appointment at 5:00pm, and I decided to go a little early to get it over and done with. So at around 4:40 I was facing another camel/plant hybrid creature telling him I have an appointment. He looks at the time. I'm 20 minutes early. The hall is empty besides one or two parents and their children, and the actual card processing staff look like they have a lot on their hands (ie, chit-chat, solitaire, scratching their heads etc). But the employee tells me to take a seat, wait until it is exactly 5pm, and then come back to him.
So I think, ok, whatever, and take a seat. So at a minutes to 5, I go back to him, and the guy already has a line of about 6 people. I look at him thinking "WTF". But hey, if his intelligence level is to be judged by his looks, then there's no use in trying to communicate with him. I stand in line and when I get to the front, I talk to the other person on the counter who looked more human, and he gives me a number to wait my turn.
A few minutes later, my number is called, so I go over to the counter and it turns out that they need (remember the guy on the phone who said you only need your passport?) 1; my passport, 2; my CPR, 3; copies of both my CPR and passport (which they aren't willing to take even though they have a semi-unused photocopier in the corner) 4; A certificate from my new job to be able to change my details and 5; two dinars processing fee. I had actually planned all this regardless of what the guy on the phone had said, and brought them all along, just incase. However, they couldn't process my paperwork, since they wanted a resignation from the job I left a little over 3 years ago. Darn it! And no, my new contract and employment certificate didn't cut it. Ok, i'll admit thats probably just the procedure they follow, but I was worried about having to line up and get a new appointment all over again, but the guy at the counter asked me to come back directly to him, and I did around 2 hours later. He wasn't there. I asked a few people and they told me he left. No one else would take my case, for which all the paperwork was ready. After explaining it all to their manager, he said I had to take a new appointment, meaning I have to go back home, apply again on the website, and come back again NEXT week and do it all over again.
Anyway... A week later, I am back, again for another 5pm appointment with all my paperwork. Sat down, everything went as planned. They also take an instant photo of you, which almost always comes out looking like you were up all night after being thrown out of your house and got caught somewhere in between a gang fight and a car accident. So now after its all over, they ask me to come 2 days later, and go to the little office on the left of the hall to pick up the card.
I look there; the lights are off inside, and the doors look locked. "Is there anyone in there?"
- "Umm.. Ok.. How do I get my card exactly?" As thoughts of breaking the door and climing the side of the building to sneak in through the window crossed my mind.
- "You have to come in the morning, before 2:00pm"
Aha... So, according to your brochures and advertisements, you're offering people the option of registering for their card at anytime between 7:30am and 8:00pm in order to make it accessible to everyone, such as the people who "work" in the mornings. But to actually pick up your card, you still limit the timings, even though its in the same building and it wont take more than an extra one or two employees to hand out the cards. Ah, I guess i've found a solution to the high unemployment rate in Bahrain; give them jobs!
Anyway, I recieved the final product today, about a month from when I first tried to apply for the card. The card lists your CPR number, name, photo (not the best!), what your gender is, and your place and date of birth. Everything else is stored inside a little chip, and needs to be read by a machine. Now, my assumption is that not everyone is going to be carrying around one of these readers, and that would make it a little more difficult to verify a persons address, job, or even nationality. I'm not trying to be a smart-ass about it, but I really think those details are actually pretty useful on an ID card; ie, most banks need some sort of address verification to open an account; if you were sneaking around looking shady in an area in the middle of the night and the police stop you, you could prove that the house youre standing infront of is actually your house, and not your next target; and so on.
So is the smart card really that smart? And whats the point of the smart card if all the CIO employees are stupid?