When it comes to producing identity documents, Public Private Partnership – or Build Operate & Transfer (BOT) as it is most commonly referred to in the field of people identification - is a frequently discussed model. This is because of the many benefits it offers authorities looking for ways to finance their projects. Under BOT, the partner handles the implementation, manages operations and, when the contract expires, transfers the project to the government. The main selling point is the initial investment, which is no longer borne by the client but by the service provider, who is paid according to the number of documents issued. That’s one key value, but to truly benefit from all the advantages of BOT, special attention should be paid to other aspects too.

WHAT DOES BOT MEAN?

This question might seem unnecessary - hasn’t the answer just been given? That’s partially true, but the term «BOT» can describe a very different approach from one service provider to another. Although it always involves relieving a client of the financial burden of their initial investment, BOT can sometimes only apply to operating expenses (OPEX) and not capital expenditure (CAPEX). From a financial point of view, BOT only becomes fully meaningful when the service provider handles both the hardware aspect (personalisation machines, IT infrastructure, etc) and overheads (personnel costs, consumables, etc). If the service provider only covers the OPEX, a significant share of the risk, via CAPEX investments, continues to be borne by the project owner. On the other hand, if the service provider agrees to bear the whole risk (OPEX + CAPEX), the authorities are completely relieved of any responsibility for guaranteeing the profitability of the project themselves.

INTERNATIONAL / TRAVEL DOCUMENT

The international nature of the passport is a characteristic that must be taken into account, because its production will have an impact both nationally and internationally. Although personalisation is applied centrally and within national borders for obvious security reasons, it must nevertheless be possible to equip embassies and consulates with some capabilities, as they issue passports all over the world. The equipment needed includes both hardware and software to allow efficient collection of applicant data and also requires a secure connection to set up trouble-free communication with the central site. That’s why the service provider’s ability to deploy the project easily to different parts of the globe is crucial, as is the ability to provide operator training and long-term facilities maintenance.

SERVICE PROVIDER NEUTRALITY

Since the passport is by nature an international document, it must satisfy standards that are equally international. The service provider therefore needs to be able to demonstrate perfect control. However, these guidelines, which apply to every country in the world, do not detract from the fact that there are specific characteristics in each of the issuing countries, which differ from one document to another. It is therefore important to choose an independent integration partner, with no connections to specific suppliers for either the booklet, chip, or any other components. In this way, authorities can ensure that the partner is always able to make choices that best fulfil their specific needs.

CLOSE COLLABORATION WITH THE AUTHORITIES AND THE SOVEREIGN ROLE OF THE STATE

For this type of project, it is always important to remember that the service provider does not operate independently and their infrastructure exists to serve the client. Behind this apparently obvious statement lies a need for the customer to have immediate access to passport applications, approvals management and other key processes. Certain manual operations, such as adjudication decisions to be made when duplicates are found, are the authorities’ responsibility and therefore require a continuing link to be maintained with those organisations. It is also important to note that all data collected will continue to be the exclusive property of the State. The service provider must at no time replace the State in its sovereign role. The service provider also provides the authorities with tools to allow them to operate in an optimum manner. The interface with systems installed on the government side must therefore be one of the elements for which the client takes special care.

LOCAL EMPLOYMENT CREATION AND KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER

If properly implemented, one additional advantage of BOT for the national economy, is the ability to recruit and train local personnel. Supported by experts already present in the company and thanks to continuing training, local personnel can operate fully autonomously. This is an important consideration when examining the transfer aspect - the ‘T’ in BOT. It means that when the contract reaches its full term, not only are the buildings and equipment delivered at no additional cost to the authorities, but qualified personnel can also be called upon to provide the necessary knowledge of tools and infrastructure. Moreover, they will also be capable of handling its operation. If the service provider is located abroad and operates the infrastructure using non-local personnel, the authorities must do everything in their power to guarantee continuity of operations after the transfer phase. The operational side is sometimes overlooked in BOT contracts. It is however essential to the longevity of the project.

OBTAINING REAL BENEFITS

BOT is an attractive model for the implementation of an ePassport project and can really help States to overcome the budgetary obstacles that stand between them and the implementation of a solution that addresses their needs. Care is needed to ensure that all the criteria are in place for key benefits to be realised and to avoid BOT simply becoming a meaningless concept.

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