Politics

Update on electronic ID project

  • Robust exchanges: Opposition MP Michael Dunkley (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Bermuda Government still has a contract with local tech firm Trunomi to develop the Perseid electronic identification project, which uses blockchain technology.

David Burt, the Premier, told the House of Assembly during Premier’s Question Time on Friday that the pilot project remained on the books.

However, he said that the Government was “looking to adjust its approach” rather than dealing with one vendor.

Mr Burt emphasised that the technology involved was developing rapidly, and that “multiple companies” could now use it to verify identities.

He added: “The Government is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on developing a framework, and looks forward to updating members once that has passed through Cabinet.”

Responding to questions from Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Burt said: “This is something we wanted to have done already.”

But the Premier warned against getting locked into technology that was already becoming outdated.

The two parties have sparred repeatedly over the pace of developing the island’s fintech sphere.

Questioned about the fintech development fund approved by Parliament in July 2018, Mr Burt conceded that no monies had been deposited so far.

He said: “When there are, I can assure members of the Opposition that they will know.”

Meanwhile, during the motion to adjourn, Opposition backbencher Michael Dunkley lambasted the cryptocurrency firm Arbitrade as a “ghost company”.

Criticising the apparent lack of movement over the firm, Mr Dunkley told MPs that the public had come to view Arbitrade as “a scam”.

The Smith’s North MP said the Government’s hoped-for deals with Arbitrade had become “an embarrassment”.

Last week The Royal Gazette reported that a promised $1 million investment by Arbitrade into fintech development had failed to materialise.

Although the Arbitrade group announced in October that it had acquired Victoria Hall, on Victoria Street, to serve as its world headquarters, it does not hold a licence to conduct digital asset business on the island.

Mr Dunkley said: “Arbitrade has failed to meet any of its promises. Government has supported them and Bermuda is embarrassed, and it must stop.”

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said it was the Bermuda Monetary Authority that oversaw whether companies complied with their obligations.

On the fintech fund, Mr Caines said: “The money has been set aside. When the process has been completed, the money will be put in.”

During a fractious exchange in which Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, threatened to stop the debate, Mr Caines insisted: “Now that the process is robust, and every stone is being overturned, we downplay the very processes we are doing?”