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Oklahoma driver's licenses going digital


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Driver's licenses in Oklahoma are going digital.

Oklahoma is one of four states that still issue laminated licenses, but by year's end those will be replaced by state-of-the-art cards with digital barcodes and magnetic strips.

The state was informed in 1999 by its license system vendor, Digimarc Identification Systems, that it would no longer support a Polaroid-based photography system after June 30, 2004.

Oklahoma could have chosen to invest in a new laminated system from Digimarc, but that would cost more money than implementing a new digital system statewide, said Jeff Hankins, who is managing Oklahoma's switch to digital licenses.

Massachusetts-based Viisage Technology was awarded the bid in November to create the new cards. The company bid to produce the digital cards for about $2.10 each, about double the current cost, Hankins said.

The $12 million contract will extend five to six years. All the license-making equipment will be owned by Viisage, Hankins said.

He said the Legislature appropriated money two years ago, allocating a portion of the fee from each license to help pay for the system. The money is being used to upgrade computer equipment statewide.

``We have to do a lot of things behind the scenes before Viisage Technology can begin working on their end of the deal,'' Hankins said.

The department has a deadline of June 30, 2004, to have the new software system in place. Hankins said the public safety commissioners requested that digital licenses become available this year.

The equipment will be phased in gradually statewide. There are about 280 tag agents in the state. They issue roughly 1 million driver's licenses and identification cards annually.

After the digital system is installed, Oklahoma law officers will be able to view data for investigations and other routine needs.

The new licenses will cost slightly more. A new operator license will cost $24, an increase of $1. Renewal will cost $20, also an increase of $1. A replacement license will cost $10.
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