DUSHANBE, November 24, Asia-Plus -- On Friday November 24, Deputy Communications Minister, Anorjon Zokirova, met in Dushanbe with Shaya’a Othman, the president of Malaysia’s INTERGEO MALAYSIA.  Their talks focused on the implementation by the Malaysian company of a free pilot project for introduction of electronic passports and identification cards in Tajikistan that may replace the currently used passports and ID cards, as well as driving licenses.  The estimated budget of the pilot project is 500,000 U.S. dollars, and the Malaysian company is ready to cover all expenses on issuing 5,000 electronic ID cards and 3,000 biometric passports on its own. 

During the meeting it was noted that Tajikistan should hurry up to introduce electronic government and biometric passports.  “Delays in issuing biometric passports may become reason for discrimination of Tajik citizens traveling abroad during passport and visa and control,” Zokirova said.  According to her, the United Nations has already announced that all participating countries should introduce electronic passports by 2010.  “European countries and China have seconded this suggestion and therefore Tajikistan should hurry up to introduce biometric passports,” Zokirova said.  

In this connection, the immediate task of the government is to endorse a concept on creation of electronic government (the delivery of government information and services using Internet technology) in Tajikistan, according to the deputy minister.  “The concept has been projected by the Ministry of Communications and submitted for consideration to the government in the summer last year,” Zokirova said, adding that Tajikistan is ready for the implementation of this project and it will be implemented within two years after approval. 

For his part, Othman noted that introduction of the electronic government will enable Tajikistan to provide electronic services to the population.  According to him, creation of such Internet-portal will also promote increase in incomes from tourism.  

“Besides, Malaysia’s National University plans to closely cooperate with Tajik Technical University in training IT personnel for Tajikistan,” said Othman, “The possibility of opening of a branch of Malaysia’s National University in Tajikistan is currently under consideration.”  INTERGEO MALAYSIA president stressed that the project is also aimed at turning Tajikistan into a center for production of electronic passports for all Central Asian countries and Afghanistan.  

 A biometric or lectronic passport is a combined paper and electronic identity document that uses biometrics to authenticate the citizenship of travelers.  The passport''s critical information is stored on a tiny RFID computer chip, much like information stored on smartcards.  Like some smartcards, the passport  book design calls for an embedded contactless chip that is able to hold digital signature  data to ensure the integrity of the passport and the biometric data.  There are several types of biometric passports, including the Euroepan version, the U.S, version, which is also refered as an electronic passport, etc.