May 25, 2016 -
Rwanda is successfully hosting Africa’s annual meeting on digital identity management.
The three-day event is the second annual government meeting of the ID4Africa Movement. It is currently being held in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, and is hosted by the National Identification Agency of Rwanda.
ID4Africa was co-founded by the Asia Pacific Smart Card Association (APSCA) and Identity Counsel International (ICI) to promote the transparent and responsible adoption of digital identity in Africa. The aim of ID4Africa is for governments to share experiences and establish real world best practices that set the correct expectations for what is involved in launching successful identity programs. ID4Africa bills itself as a multi-stakeholder movement that promotes the transparent and responsible adoption of digital ID management in the service of development in Africa.
This year, delegates from 36 African and 29 non-African countries have convened at the annual event to discuss developing successful eID schemes. More than 600 participants are estimated to be attending this year’s Forum, along with an exhibitor space featuring nearly 60 companies.
— Rawlson King (@rawlsonking2) May 24, 2016
This year’s event is dedicated to examining the practical requirements necessary to plan and launch successful electronic identity (eID) programs. eID is typically a government-issued document for online and offline identification. The typical electronic identity card has the format of a regular bank card, with printed identity information on the surface, such as personal details and a photograph, as well as an embedded microchip.
An eID is more reliable than paper-based ID because it provides more data security with built-in privacy features. The use of digital signatures makes it harder or even impossible to make a forged ID as the duplicate ones would invalidate existing digital signatures.
A citizen with an eID has the ability to use it for various different services, thus making the card multi-purposed. One of the unique aspects of the eID is its ability to authenticate the holder not only in the real world, but also in the virtual world. eID enables its holders to authenticate themselves securely when using an online service, while protecting their privacy.
Apart from online authentication, eID cards can provide users with the option to sign electronic documents with a digital signature or both government and private transactions. An eID is designed to be a trusted authentication mechanism for citizens and businesses to identify themselves in order to electronically access services from across government.
During the event, Pascal Nyamulinda, Director General of the Rwandan National Identification Agency, extended his appreciation to ID4Africa for selecting Rwanda, also known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills”, as the site for the event. He noted that his hope was that the Forum would focus on tangible solutions that will enable cooperation between nations, along with development agencies responsible for over US$100 billion in aid, including the World Bank, the African Union, the United Nations, the African Development Bank, Agence française de développement (AFD) and the Economic Community of West African States (COWAS) Commission.
— Rawlson King (@rawlsonking2) May 23, 2016
Nyamulinda noted he was looking forward to “fruitful deliberations” that would lead to the development of an information-sharing platform for governments. Dr. Joseph J. Atick, Executive Chairman of ID4Africa, confirmed on Tuesday that the organization would introduce a new stakeholder knowledge exchange platform called “govSpike” that would be designed to as a closed, peer-to-peer forum for discussion focused on African e-identity management issues.
Dr. Atick stated: “Our idea is basically to make it easier for governments and national identity authorities to empower the people with legal identity. We intend to look at how countries can do it faster and easier. Our goal is making sure that we lower the cost for creating identity for African countries by sharing knowledge across the countries.”
Dr. Atick noted that topics of discussion at the event include the linkage of civil registration systems to national ID systems and the application of identity systems in support of democracy and elections. The event also is examining the use of the technology to provide social services, as well as shared “best practices” concerning the development of governance and legal frameworks, along with privacy and data protection.
Dr. Atick noted that the ID4Africa Movement is not seeking nor endorsing a Pan-African singular identification credential or identity registry for Africa, but is only designed to provide a unified and formalized forum for data transfer and discussion, with a view to make it easier for African governments to learn from each other, in efforts to implement identification solutions for beneficial socio-economic development.
While not endorsing any specific efforts, the event’s sessions are providing technical and policy guidance to many African nations as they consider the African Union’s goal of providing visa-free travel throughout Africa vis-à-vis a standardized passport by January 2018. The AU’s goal of a standardized passport across its 52 member states is to foster tourism, intra-Africa trade, investment, remittance flows, and cross-border labor mobility.
Dr. Atick referenced the benefits that Indian citizens obtain from Aadhaar, the world’s largest universal civil ID program and biometric database, used by the Indian government to provide social services. To date, Aadhaar has issued over 900 million Aadhaar numbers, and has enrolled approximately 850 million people, with a goal of ultimately enrolling 1.28 billion people. According to statistics, 97 percent of adults and 67 percent of minors in India have Aadhaar cards, and five to seven hundred thousand people are added to the Aadhaar system every day. Dr. Atick would like to see such statistics successfully replicated in Africa.
Dr. Atick emphasized that a major goal for ID4Africa is to assist in the development of practical e-ID schemes in support of UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.9, which calls upon member states to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration by 2030.
During the event’s opening session, Francis Kaboneka, Rwanda’s Minister of Local Government, emphasized that identity was absolutely essential for human development and advancement. He noted that without an ID, citizens are effectively barred from exercising their rights and accessing social services.With the advent of modern eID schemes, African governments can work towards implementing effective ID management systems and e-government services that provide access to healthcare, voter registration, and other essential social services.
— Rawlson King (@rawlsonking2) May 24, 2016
James Runcie, Head of Product Management for Identity at De La Rue, noted that the development of citizen-centric eID schemes are critical due to the fact that one in three, or potentially one in five worldwide do not have ID cards, which provides a foundation for the exercise of rights by civil society. He also noted that in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 40 percent of births were unregistered, which means that those people effectively have no access to health, education or citizenship. Runcie said that the problem becomes extremely acute when one considers that Africa’s population is projected to reach 1.3 billion by 2050, which is a 190 percent growth increase from today’s population estimate.
Identity has therefore become an important tool for social inclusion, empowerment and development, and ID4Africa aims to provide the education necessary for governments to lay the significant groundwork necessary to deploy effective electronic identity systems. Day two will see governments share experiences and establish real world best practices that set expectations for what is involved in launching and sustaining successful identity programs.
As a consequence, day two of the ID4Africa event will focus on practical workshops that will examine developing and strengthening eID schemes, through: linking foundational identity registers; securing credentials and ID issuance systems; developing business models and legal frameworks for identity management systems; along with creating systems that examine voting enhancement and financial inclusion.
Read more coverage from ID4Africa
BiometricUpdate.com was the official journalist for the 2016 forum and exposition.