According to the World Bank (PDF) more than 1.1 billion people are “invisible” because they are unable to prove their citizenship, and therefore lack access to vital services such as healthcare, social protection, education and financing.

The World Bank adds that the majority of these invisible people live in Africa and Asia, with a third of them being children who are unregistered. Technology holds a key in helping to address this issue, however, according to Steve Warne, senior director and product marketing manager at HID Global. Tapping into his experience with citizen identity, he looks at how governments in Africa can close the gap using biometrics and e-ID’s.

Changing the face of identity in Africa

Warne advises that with biometrics people will no longer require a multitude of documents which can be lost or damaged to prove who they are. Biometrics offers the ability to identify an individual’s physical traits, such as fingerprints or behavioural data, all of which  can be captured by reducing the opportunity for fraud or falsification.

He adds that governments should rely on systems that address each step of the identification journey and pave the way from new capabilities, which are easy to implement whether for issuing passports, controlling or ensuring security and tranquility through more efficient and effective law enforcement.

“These systems increasingly use biometrics to fuse convenience and security while validating the true identity so that individuals are tied to their credentials and other government document,” he says.

e-Passport & e-Document programmes

He specifically uses Tanzania as an example of how e-Passports and e-Documents have taken a foundational step in launching a citizen identification programme in the country, which allows them to plan for future capabilities including biometrics as a big piece of the solution.

Furthermore he says that the Tanzanian government has been working with HID Global to deliver its e-Immigration programme, which is a new web-based Visa and residence permit service that allows visitors and residents to apply for, and receive validated credentials for traveling or living in the country.

“Their programme enables them to adapt to changing standards, adopt new capabilities and issue many different types of ID documents. It encompasses all critical system elements spanning the entire identity journey from data capture and enrolment including biometric identification, to application process, adjudication, data preparation, personalisation and issuance,” he notes.

Smarter ID’s cost effectiveness

Warne says that the use of smarter ID’s is cost-effective for governments in the long-term, especially as governments seek to optimise their investments. He points out that they need solutions that can be used to issue many different types of ID documents with the same core system components.

As such new and emerging standards and market requirements must be addressed and incorporated into the solution in a simple and frictionless manner. This will enable identity credentials to be enrolled, provisioned and used on mobile devices, presented in a way that does not compromise the security or privacy, and authenticated without requiring specialised training, says Warne.

“As an example, a document management system should be able to support the move to mobile ID’s as well as the verification infrastructure for authenticating them, mobile technologies will give citizens greater control over what identification information they share,” he explains.

Closing remarks

Warne says that today’s end-to-end citizen identification solutions include everything required for a successful programme. They acknowledge and pave the way for issuing many different types of physical or mobile credentials as part of a comprehensive and coherent framework that ensures that these credentials can be authenticated via a single low-cost verification infrastructure, he adds.

“From making it easy for people to quickly prove who they are at the airport customs counter to making them safer by better managing such foundational security processes as border control, criminal booking and record-keeping, biometric identification and e-IDs are changing how we live and what we can do,” concludes Warne.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]