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Dhaka Tribune

NID seekers in trouble as EC server crashes

The data server of 104 million voters had been offline for 13 days

Update : 23 Jan 2019, 01:53 PM

Election Commission authorities have been unable to provide a statement regarding the collapse of their server, while citizens have been suffering, because of the issue, for the last 13 days.

Citizens had been waiting at the National Identity Card (NID) wing of the Agargaon Election Training Institute (ETI) building to obtain necessary services since Tuesday morning.

However, the service-seekers allege they did not receive their required services until 4:30pm that day. They did not receive any prior notice in this regard as well.

Officials concerned also admitted that the information storage server of 104 million voters has been offline since January 10; and they could not provide necessary services as the NID server had been down for 13 days. 

The authorities claim the server started working on Tuesday morning but their claim changed after learning about the suffering citizens’ statements reported on Tuesday afternoon.

This correspondent went to the NID Bhaban on Tuesday evening where she found some citizens who had been waiting from morning till evening. Some of them were refused services as the server was not made functional as of 4.30pm that day.

Citizens’ statements on the inconvenience

A service-seeker Md Shumon, from Matuail of Jatrabari, who faced trouble over a mismatch between his fingerprint and NID, said he was constantly sent from one place to another—from the NID section to the ETI building—as the server was not working.

"I have to open a bank account as soon as possible since I have to go abroad within a few months. However, my fingerprint does not match with my smart card. So, I cannot open a bank account, therefore, I came here to fix this problem. However, the official said their server is down, they cannot work on anything," Shumon said.

A long queue of people near the NID wing, who has been waiting to receive their required service, on January 22, 2019 | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Meanwhile, a paper notice was temporarily pasted on a glass wall of the NID wing’s service desk, reading the server was down.

However, when the reporter arrived there, an NID official suddenly appeared and tore up the notice. When inquired about the reason for ripping up the notice, he replied that their server was functional again.

However, in-front of that official, Sumon said: "I have been waiting here since 10am. Till now [3:45pm], I have not received any services; they told me that the server was not back to normal yet."

"They did not even say anything about my NID; whether I can get the service today. If I cannot recover my smart card, I will be in trouble," he added.

Another service-seeker, Anowar Hussen, said his fingerprint did not match his smart card’s when he went to buy a SIM for his mobile phone, so he was rejected.

“I came here to restore my fingerprint as it was mismatched with my NID. However, I have been waiting since the morning, and they did not inform me about anything, they just asked me to wait as the server was down," he added.

Requesting to remain anonymous, another service-seeker said: “I came here four times within two weeks but did not get any service. They cannot even provide information about when my card will be delivered. They could have informed us through a notice.”

Many of the people have come from outside Dhaka to collect their NIDs on an urgent basis. They have fallen into trouble. Many people have not even received emergency services such as their pensions or been able to collect death certificates.

What the officials have to say

SM Mahmud Arafat, Operations Planning Officer-in-Charge of the Election Commission’s IDEA project, told this correspondent, last Wednesday, that the server had suddenly crashed, but they were expecting it to recover promptly.

However, an Election Commission official, unauthorized to speak to the media, said the server problem began on January 10. 

For the last 13 days, about 5,000 service-seekers visited the NID wing for services, every day, but failed to obtain them.

A few citizens expressed their anger about not being able to receive proper services or be informed when the server will be active.

An NID official, Md Ruhul, said they were failing to check on information, and the server crash was causing problems in upazila offices too, however he claimed the server has started working.

A circular posted on the wall near the service desk of the NID wing, informing service-seekers that the server was not working, on January 22, 2019 | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Ruhul asked service-seekers to visit the office in a week’s time.

NID wing Director (Operations) Md Abdul Baten told the media earlier that they were facing an issue with server validity, which was creating the problem.

He said they were considering setting up a new server to create more space and provide up-to- date services.

However, when asked yesterday, at 8:37pm, over the phone, Baten claimed that the server was functioning then.

"The server went live from today [Tuesday]," he said.

When informed that people had still been suffering that afternoon, Baten changed his stance and said: "We could work easily from the evening. Card printing has restarted and there is no problem with the server now."

Service halted soon after election

The NID service remained closed for 2 months because of the 11th parliamentary election. The service became available after the election—which was held on December 30—but stopped again on January 10 because of a server problem.

According to Election Commission, the server was bought in 2009. The 10-year-old server is no-longer working as usual. 

Additionally, the server does not have enough space to load any more information since the information of 104.2 million voters has already been included. Therefore, the Election Commission is said to have been thinking of setting up a new server.

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