The End of Russian "Universal Electronic Card"?

Posted on: 02/04/2017

I was speaking at the excellent Reconnaissance International "High Security Printing Conference" in Baku earlier this week.

It was a great pleasure to speak myself and an even greater pleasure to see wonderful Azerbaijan, but the highlight for me was one of the other presentations at the conference.

During the presentation by a representative of Goznak, the State-owned Russian security printer, it was announced that the Russian Universal Electronic Card (UEC) Project had been halted as of 1 January 2017.

For readers unaware of this project, it dates back to around 2012, when it was announced that the Russian Government intended to introduce a card that would be the ONLY one any Russian citizen would need to carry.

This card was to be an identity card; travel card; driving licence; pension card; and bank card.

When I first heard about this project, I was absolutely horrified. To my mind, the convenience of having only one card to carry was massively outweighed by the threat to liberty. Put simply, if  your card was switched off, you would simply be unable to function. You could do absolutely nothing without this card. No card = you do not exist.

Be very clear. My worries did not simply concern Russia. I would not want to see such a card in ANY country on our planet.

Anyway, whatever the reservations of myself and millions of others who respect the rights and freedoms of the individual, the project got underway.

With the Russian Government 100% behind this initiative, I had little doubt, back in 2012 when it started, that it would be made to work.

I beg forgiveness of the Russian people for doubting their willingness to reject a Government-back initiative such as this.


By the end of 2016, only 500,000 of the cards had been issued ( Russian population: 140 Million+) and the Russian Government decided to call a halt.


More than 100 Million Russians understood the risks such a card presented to personal freedom and independence - and gave it a resounding " HET".

The UEC is now going to be developed as a kind of Oyster Card, the one that is a favourite of Londoners for their bus and tube travel. 

One caveat in relation to my welcoming this good news. If it transpires that the UEC becomes very popular as a Travel Card, it is possible at some later date that the mainstream project could be restarted. So the Russian people - indeed, all of us - have to stay alert to ensure it remains safely binned.

As I wrote earlier, such a card wouldn't only be a bad idea in Russia. It is NOT acceptable ANYWHERE.

You could call it a Trump Card or a May-Be Card - BUT it would be equally unwelcome in the United States or United Kingdom.

The reality is the Public - you and me - do not need or want a one-fits-all solution. We want CHOICE. Cards; Smartphones; Laptops; Cash ; and Cheques all have a part to play in offering us choice, in payments and in life in general.

Given a choice, would you want to use it or lose it? 

So a massive " THANK YOU" to the people of Russia. They made their choice - and now can continue to use it.




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