May 31, 2016 -
Nigeria and South Africa provided useful insights into how they manage their respective identity programs at the ID4Africa Forum and exposition held last week in Kigali, Rwanda.
The three-day event was the second annual government meeting of the ID4Africa Movement. 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’s event was dedicated to examining the practical requirements necessary to plan and launch successful electronic identity (eID) programs. Delegates from 36 African and 29 non-African countries convened at the annual event to discuss developing successful eID schemes. More than 600 participants are estimated to have attended, along with an exhibitor space featuring 60 companies.
During conference sessions, multiple governments shared experiences and best practices, to in order to benchmark their identity programs. One of the main themes that emerged is the logistical and technical complexity required to implement such programs.
In the case of Nigeria, complexity abounds concerning all facets of its system. The country has 187 million citizens, 371 ethnic groups, 37 states, along with 774 local government areas. In Nigeria, over 500 languages are spoken and there are seven million new million citizens who are born or migrate each year. Due to ID management strategies that were not centralized, the country initially had disparate identity databases, managed by different agencies. This initial situation led to easily faked IDs, due to a lack of centralized databases. The lack of interoperability and centralized ID management meant that card issuance was not akin to successful ID management. To address this situation, the country formed its National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in 2007.
The establishment of NIMC led to the creation of a centralized national identity database, the use of general multi-purpose ID cards, and the implementation of national identification numbers. NIMC’s primary goals are to foster the orderly development of an identity sector in Nigeria. The commission issues a national identity smart card to every registered person 16 years and above and provides a secure means to access the national identity database so that both citizens and permanent residents can irrefutably assert their identity.
The Commission is driven to harmonize its system with all government services in order to create more efficiency in social safety schemes. The approach is designed to eliminate waste based on providing shared services and reducing duplication. The wide deployment of the centralized ID management system is on track for wide implementation, and has the added benefit allowing for direct cash transfers for social programs, permits ease of banking through “know your customer” technology, improved tax collection, and allows for better border management.
“Because politically we have different local zones and states, we require multiple physical offices and we need to train many people in order to manage complex systems,” said Aliyu Abubakar Aziz, Director General of Nigeria’s National Identity Management Commission, in an exclusive interview with BiometricUpdate.com. “We believe the key is removing manual methods and ensuring that real data captured in the field is sent for immediate backup to central offices for enrolment and immediate national ID number issuance.”
— Rawlson King (@rawlsonking2) May 24, 2016
Nigeria notes however that many constraints on the achieving their centralization tasks remain, which include: harmonization of legacy databases, coordination of multiple vendors, public cynicism surrounding the use of IDs, interoperability of proprietary technology, and lack of expertise to implement and maintain systems.
Many of the same constraints confront South Africa. That country has a population of 54 million people, nine provinces but has a goal of building an accurate and credible national population database for a system that is neither centralized or consolidated. The country’s goal is to implement a fully automated biometric ID system in order to both eliminate and prevent fraud in social services.
In 1997, the country decided to replace its ID book with a smart card, since the ID book was easily tampered with. The smart card is designed to provide a secured and multi-utility form of identification. By 2013, the country was able to supply a smart card within 10 to 15 days of request. The card contains a chip with the aim of eradicating identity theft and cleaning up the country’s national population registry. With 38 million ID books in circulation, the aim is to replace all the books within five to seven years. To date, over four million cards have been issued. According to the South African Government Printing Works however, the country has the capacity to process over 12,000 applications a day and 3,000 cards can be printed per hour. As a consequence, the South Africa is also on track for wide deployment of a centralized identity management system.
Read more coverage from ID4Africa
BiometricUpdate.com was the official journalist for the 2016 forum and exposition.