Though over 170 countries currently use machine-readable electronic passports, the world has fallen behind the deadline sought by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to have every country using e-passports by April 2010.
The ICAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that sets the standards for international air transport to ensure safe travels and orderly growth. In 2004, when countries like the UK, Australia and Singapore began introducing e-passports to enhance security measures at border crossings, the agency implemented a recommendation that every country convert to these kinds of passports by 2010.
The lag in timeline isn’t necessarily a bad thing though.
Because some countries have yet to adopt electronic passports, when they do, they are more likely to jump to the second-generation passports, which provide even more security features and ensure safer travel.
First generation e-passports contain the holder’s information in a small Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip embedded in the passport cover. This information includes name, date of birth, height, weight, age, etc – all the details you would expect to find in a non-electronic passport. First generations can also carry biometric information, such as fingerprints, iris scans and DNA recognition.
Second generation e-passports contain all the same information but are simply increased in capacity for both information and safety. Second generations have a more powerful chip with increased storage space (nearly double than that of the first generation’s), which improves processing speeds. The new chips also offer greater protection against unauthorized reading, only allowing access when synced at terminals.
“The high levels of security and authentication provided by second-generation e-passports translates directly into increased efficiency and convenience for governments and their citizens, with secure contactless technology helping to make passport-based identity checks simpler, faster and more secure,” wrote Adam Tanguin, Sales Director of E-Government for EMEA, HID Global in a recent article.
Though the globe hasn’t met the e-passport target set out by the ICAO nearly six years ago, the agency is still confident that the recent moves toward electronic passports are a step in the right direction to developing safer travel across borders for every citizen in every country.
“This represents a first step in bringing global state travel document systems and technologies more in line with 21st century border control, facilitation and security objectives,” a spokesperson said.