Birth and death certificates

Go digital, but offer hard copy too

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) made a sensible move adopting digital birth and death certificates, but the corresponding elimination of physical documents is unwise (Only digital birth, death certs to be issued from May 29, May 9).

Despite the convenience and flexibility that digital certificates offer, physical documents remain a highly practical means of authenticating one's identity.

For example, a physical copy of a birth certificate is far more likely to be accepted by another country when a person takes up temporary residence there.

In addition, digital certificates are not necessarily more durable or easier to keep safely than physical certificates.

Technological service providers have also at times struggled to preserve backwards compatibility as old file formats become deprecated, resulting in the loss of digital information.

Conversely, it has been fairly straightforward for me to keep a physical copy of my birth certificate, issued in the mid-1930s.

It would be good if ICA could continue issuing a printed version of the original electronic document to those who want it, while absorbing the cost within the $18 application fee, so that citizens could enjoy the best of both worlds.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2022, with the headline Go digital, but offer hard copy too. Subscribe