The move marked an important milestone for the controversial project, which will see the first ID cards issued to British citizens by the end of 2009.
The cards will initially contain photographs and fingerprints, although the Home Office is leaving open the option of eventually including other biometric data, such as iris scans. Five companies will be chosen to supply computer equipment and manage the national roll-out of the cards. They will be offered contracts ranging in value from £50m to £500m. The successful bidders will be required to demonstrate that they can work together to implement the scheme.
IBM, Microsoft and Accenture are among the companies that have expressed an interest in running the £5.7bn identity system. London Independent