The scheme is due to go live in Greater Manchester next month, but as yet just 0.4% of the area's population - fewer than 2,000 people - have registered for an application form.
The Home Office had hoped that Manchester's large young adult population would mean that many thousands would take part. But the response reflects national apathy to the scheme, with only 10,000 people across the country currently signed up voluntarily.
IPS chief executive James Hall defended the lack of interest. "People are a bit confused about whether this is really going to happen so we will be ramping up our communications in the coming weeks," he said.
From early 2010, identity cards will be issued on a voluntary basis to residents in the North West, and from 2011 they will roll out to the wider population.
ID cards have been compulsory for foreign nationals living in the UK since November 2008, and so far 90,000 of these have been issued.