9 July 2007

Not so "Smart" Card

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)
Huh? Yeah,

- 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?

- Employee:
(distant chattering in background)
Yeah, umm...
one second
Yeah, we need your passport only.

- Me: Nothing else? Are you sure?

- Employee:
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.

Bloody CIO...

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?"

- "No."

- "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?


i*maginate said...

This is just a classic case of hotlines being useless. They shouldn't be there if the information given cannot be relied on. Instead, we should just stick to the old-fashioned way of going to the place and finding the information there, then going through the 1000 procedures to get anything done. And half those procedures involve finding out what documents are required to complete the procedure.

The first time always takes longer. Renewing the next year usually takes less time due to experience. Ain't that "learning the long way" ;)

Ammar456 said...

My biggest gripe here is the fact that there is no such thing as quality control. Why can't they just send an undercover employee to check up on the staff once a week or so, and smooth out any bugs in the system. Its not that difficult to do. Just to keep everyone alert.

i*maginate said...

Darlin, write to me the day that happens. Sometimes I just wish I can butt in and do these jobs. Sometimes, I have even volunteered my time and "skill" for certain areas/schemes that are underlooked and could do with some "expertise". I tried once to offer my help in improving things, but the manager whom I approached only asked me for my number, then asked me out to dinner.

So...there you go. You can write about it all you like but there needs to be a "will" to see things change right from the top.

And I feel overall, there are some slight changes being made for the better regionally. Take for example the Dubai Rent Committee, who are doing a fab job, and quite efficiently. Although one does need to go visit them to get answers to questions. The telephone line goes unanswered...lol "whine whine whine" ;)

Yacoub said...

I don't know why all government employees are all the same: no brains, no manners and no logic

I remember doing my smart card before last year's elections, the had to print my card at least three times because they kept getting my blood type wrong!

and also like they use 'new' technologies like the cams and fingerprint reader but have no idea how to use them especially the women!

why does our government always hire the worst people??

aMaL said...

should ROT IN HELL!

the only use i made so far of my smart card is showing my non-bahraini friends what it looks like.. can't even use it to bloody enter dubai!

Blayde said...

It seems they're all caught up in the hype of the smart card, they havent made it any more useful to get because of all the BS you have to endure

MSB said...

fortunately for me, when i went in a couple months ago, everything went very smoothly. EXCEPT, they insisted that i was married. how am i supposed to prove to them i'm single? the guy told me, 'but the system says you're married'.. me, 'ok fine.. give me the husband they claim i have!' :@

nationality can be ascertained cuz of the flag on the front.. but i'm annoyed that the address isnt on there nor employment info. oh, and if they dont have your specific work title, u gotta just pick one from the list they have! therefore, my title on my CPR is a level lower than my actual title!

never fear tho.. u can carry that cheap A4 print out which contains all the information, along with the 'smart' card which was designed to reduce the # of cards u had to carry!! :/

Ammar456 said...

only real useful thing i've managed to get out of it, is that my driving license was lost about 2 months ago. Since this combines both CPR and license, I don't need to go in and get a new one and pay 12bd for it; I just pay 2bd for this card. I bet it doesn't count as a driving license outside bahrain though since the only verification is a tiny picture of a car on the back (which looks like a london taxi), so i'm probably going to have to get my license re-issued anyway if I want to travel..

ZEX said...

bloody idiot card !

the basic purposes of the smart card in europe are:

in europe , they use it basicly for Health and emregency purposes (when you fall down and they want to know what's the type of your blood)

Bloody idiots we have here , they should show a massage after taking an appointment to remind you of what is requested

Kiwi Nomad said...

"Bloody idiots we have here , they should show a massage after taking an appointment to remind you of what is requested"

Don't you mean give a massage. :) And a message would be nice too.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so what the hell does your place of employment have to do with your personal identification anyway? Who's business is it where you work? This system sucks and serves as form of bondage to employers!!