HID Global took advantage of the recent ID4Africa conference to launch an initiative aimed at addressing challenges relating to the verification of identities of African citizens. Hi-Tech Security Solutions had the opportunity to speak to HID representatives about some of these challenges and how the company can help in addressing them.
Being able to verify people’s identities is critical for a nation’s growth and prosperity and yet HID says nearly half of all African citizens can’t prove who they are to vote, travel freely and receive government benefits and services. “HID Global addresses each step of the citizen identity journey and everything government agencies in Africa and other emerging markets need to deploy complete solutions for issuing driver’s licences, social security cards, passports and other national ID documents,” says Jessica Westerouen van Meeteren, VP and managing director, Citizen ID business.
“Our initiative tackles the challenges of serving citizens living in remote, unconnected areas who are at the greatest risk of marginalisation and exclusion, and aligns well with the ID4Africa organisation’s ‘ID-4-All’ movement aimed at facilitating economic development and the success of humanitarian aid, government services, and other critical programmes.”
Of an estimated 1,1 billion people worldwide that cannot officially prove their identity, it is believed that approximately 500 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. Problems are worsened in areas where conflict adds to the millions of displaced people who flee without the necessary identification documents to receive basic legal, social and economic rights and opportunities.
According to strategic director of citizen identity solutions, Africa and Middle East, Joby Mathew, for many governments the first set of challenges in implementing an eID (electronic ID) system is both financing the programme and selecting the right technology partner who has the credibility and financial capability to support such strategic, long-term citizen ID projects and investments.
“In addition, governments must look beyond traditional and central ID issuance solutions that limit their ability to address the need to efficiently issue citizen identities in both developed and remote, rural areas,” he states. “Mobile citizen identities carried on smartphones provide an avenue for overcoming the challenges of issuing credentials remotely. These mobile IDs can be easily issued to citizens anywhere, at any time; they also enable citizens to identify themselves to access government services at their convenience and from any location – all via their mobile phone.
“In addition, cloud-based issuance for physical eID cards also makes it possible to issue citizen IDs remotely to any area at any time. For example, credentials can be issued from a central office based in a metropolitan hub directly to citizens living in rural areas and villages, completely overcoming the previous hurdles of issuing identities to citizens located in more remote locations.”
For many countries, Mathew considers an ePassport to be the building block of democracy, the cornerstone of citizenship, and their first step to launching an advanced identification programme. For example, several sub-Saharan countries are already using HID Global’s solutions for ePassports as well as for a range of national IDs, voter IDs, driver’s licences, and more.
In many African countries, the lack of an advanced Internet infrastructure can be a limiting factor for large-scale online solutions. Infrastructure considerations may include data centre capacity and connectivity; however, Mathew says there are numerous advanced ID solutions, such as biometrics and citizen eID cards, that do not require significant considerations in infrastructure. Among other use cases, biometrics solutions are particularly useful for refugee identification where the person’s ‘true identity’ is easy to capture and store on mobile devices that can be used wherever there is a refugee community.
“Biometrics enable government officials to rapidly confirm a subject’s identity – even if it differs from the information they provide,” Mathew expands. “Impostors, dual nationals and twins can all be easily identified by a biometric system. Furthermore, biometric information cannot be easily mis-entered, altered or forged, negating the data quality issues commonly associated with biographic information. Biometrics solutions are also emerging as a way to address the migrant identity management problems. Already adopted by law enforcement and border security around the world, biometrics can uncover travel histories and criminal associations that traditional identity documents may not.”
In addition to the technologies that can mitigate fraudulent ID problems, it is becoming increasingly important to protect citizens’ personal information from ‘bad actors’. A prime example of a solution that protects people’s private information in ways that perhaps is not possible with old-fashioned documents, is HID’s mobile IDs. “These mobile IDs enable driver’s licences and many other government IDs to be carried on smartphones that become all-in-one devices for receiving, presenting and authenticating mobile IDs with the highest level of privacy protection.
“For example, HID mobile IDs include role-based access, which prevents citizens from sharing all their data during verification, ensuring that their privacy is always protected,” Mathew says. “A popular use-case for this is age verification, where a citizen must prove their age for a variety of reasons. With HID’s mobile IDs, a citizen can only share a digital verification of their age, and all other private information, such as their address and other details, is kept private.”
For more information visit www.hidglobal.com
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