Smart cards for NI students in pilot project

18 Oct 2005

Eight secondary schools in Lisburn are running a pilot smart card scheme as part of the Online Northern Ireland (NI) e-government strategy in the province. Around 6,500 pupils will participate in the project, which is aimed at reducing the need for them to carry cash.

Every student will be issued with a photographic smart card fitted with a microchip that carries data as well as an electronic purse that will allow pupils to pay for school meals, borrow library books or use leisure and sports facilities in the local area.

The pilot forms part of the Online NI e-government strategy being managed by the e-Government Unit within the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The project went out to tender and the contract was awarded to a consortium led by Cara NI, part of the Cara Group, an indigenous IT services provider headquartered in Dublin. The consortium is also backed by Infineer, Identifile, Accourt and ECebs, all of which have been involved in implementing other government projects in the past.

The scheme has just got under way and will run until June of next year. The main objective of the project is that the MyCard will eliminate the need for them to carry money with them. The card will look the same for all pupils, removing the stigma attached to those receiving state benefits. It’s also believed that bullying will be reduced as a result of the scheme.

Further applications for the MyCard include potential sponsorship deals with local companies that could offer discounts on items of interest to students. It may also be linked to the Youth Portal – a web access point for young people that forms another e-government project.

Over time it is hoped the card could be extended to working with transport services, allowing students to pay for bus, train and potentially taxi travel on a cashless basis.

John McKernan, deputy director of the NI e-Government Unit, said if the project proves successful, it could lead to the card being rolled out across the province within a year.

By Gordon Smith