GenKey CEO discusses biometric identity and election management solutions

January 7, 2016 - 

This year proved to be a notable one for GenKey with the company announcing several deployments throughout the world of its biometric identity and election management technology.

GenKey’s biometric deduplication system, in particular, was deployed in many nation-scale election and health programs, with both the Tanzanian and Ghanaian governments deploying its solutions for their respective elections.

In May, GenKey updated its FastAFIS SDK technology with significantly improved biometric matching accuracy.

Following these improvements, FastAFIS can now achieve 10 to 1000 times lower false acceptance rates (FAR) over the typical range of false rejection rates (FRR) used in practice.

In an interview with BiometricUpdate.com, GenKey CEO Michiel van der Veen discussed deploying biometric identity and election management solutions in Africa, key growth factors that have contributed to the rise in adoption, and its FastAFIS SDK and BioHash technologies.

Many of your clients are based in Africa. Are you noticing a huge adoption rate in biometrics in this region?

Michiel van der Veen: It is correct that many of our clients are based in Africa, and this is not a coincidence. In Africa and emerging regions in general, there is often no reliable civil registration and many people lack official documentation. As a result, people cannot prove who they are, which may limit them from access to services and basic rights, such as the right to vote and access to healthcare. On the other hand, the issue also leads to identity fraud, leading to huge financial losses in these countries. Consequently, there is an urgent need for reliable identification services in Africa in the public as well as the private sector. Biometric identification solutions are becoming incr easingly adopted in African countries as well as emerging countries in Asia and Latin America to tackle these problems of identity fraud and to make their administration systems more efficient. Our biometric solutions have proven to be affordable, secure and robust solutions to provide identification and verification services in challenging environments. To date, we have processed over 110 million identities across Africa and we’re on a mission to provide identity for all.

What factors do you think can be attributed to this growth?

An important factor contributing to the growing adoption of biometrics in Africa and other emerging regions is the (co-)funding by global initiatives, such as the World Bank, the UN, and donor funds. Emerging countries often prefer to implement a full identity management solution from scratch, resulting in large-scale projects. Because many of these large-scale projects address fundamental issues like democracy and access to healthcare, they are typically co-funded by Western countries or global initiatives.

Other factors are technological development of biometric solutions and reduced hardware costs. The latest biometric technologies have proven to be reliable and accurate tools for identifying and verifying someone’s identity. While biometric technologies are becoming increasingly accurate and fast, the hardware needed for biometric systems (scanners, servers, etc.) is becoming less expensive. 2015 was a great year for GenKey, where we reached important milestones. Together with partners, we have been awarded several large-scale projects in Africa.

GenKey recently deployed a biometric voter verification solution for elections in Tanzania and Ghana. Could you tell me more about these projects and what the system entailed?

In Tanzania, we delivered a biometric voter registration solution, together with our partner Lithotech. This involved the biometric enrollment of 24 million eligible voters in the nation’s permanent voter register. Using our large-scale biometric-based deduplication solution (ABIS) and adjudication solution, we could ensure that each voter was enrolled only once. The voter registration data was uploaded and managed by our voter ID management solution (SPiRE). Potential duplicate records identified by our ABIS based on the matching score were forwarded to our adjudication application, which allowed trained officials to manually review the biographic and biometric information of the particular re cords to decide whether they involved fraudulent cases or not. Subsequently, the database was updated and an accurate and credible voter register was created for the 2015 National Elections, which took place in October.

Also in Ghana, we helped to ensure fair and transparent elections. For the District Level Elections in September, we successfully deployed our biometric voter verification solution, together with our local partner STL. Using our mobile biometric voter verification devices, the identity of eligible voters on Election Day could be verified before casting their vote. This further reduced the chance of election fraud. The devices were upgraded after they were used in the last General Elections in December 2012. Also the voter register had been updated after the last elections.

I also understand that GenKey implemented a biometric healthcare management information system for the Kenya National Hospital Insurance Fund. Can you tell me more about this project?

The Kenya NHIF was seeking an accessible, affordable and high-quality health management information system that would help them to increase efficiency and curb fraud. This is exactly what we were able to offer them, based on our biometric technologies and tailored solutions. Currently, we are biometrically enrolling four million civil servants and their dependents. Our biometric-based deduplication and adjudication solutions are again used to ensure a duplicate-free member database. The member card consists of a biometric smart card, on which the biographic and biometric information is securely stored. When a member visits a healthcare provider, a live measurement of his fingerprint is v erified against the fingerprint information on the smart card. If verification is successful, an irreversible claim verification code is generated and added to the member’s claim form. This unique code acts as a biometric proof-of-presence, thus eliminating fake and duplicate claims from healthcare providers.

Can you discuss any improvements and new features in the latest versions of FastAFIS SDK and BioHash technologies?

We are proud of these achievements and of having become a leading player in Africa as it comes to issuing and validating identities in the elections and healthcare markets. To further strengthen this position, our future developments are focused on building end-to-end solutions based on our FastAFIS and BioHASH technologies. We have released updated versions of our FastAFIS and BioHASH technologies this year, which involved significant improvements in accuracy and speed. In 2016, we will continue to invest in research and development in order to even further improve the performance of our technologies and to prepare for future deployments. BioHASH is one of GenKey’s core technologies and is a u nique way of encrypting and protecting biometric templates, which complies with the ISO 24745 standard. One of the main advantages of a BioHASH template is that it can be securely stored on for example barcodes or smart cards, but also in centralized databases, without compromising the privacy of the personal data. This provides unique opportunities for various authentication services. Furthermore, we are continuously investing in the further improvement of our world-class automated biometric identification system for large-scale deduplication. What makes our ABIS/AFIS technology unique is excellence in speed and accuracy combined with proven performance in large-scale deployments. Our aim for 2016 is to keep innovating to maintain a world-leading position in the biometrics market.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.