Deep stakeholder engagement marks day 2 of ID4Africa 2017

April 27, 2017 - 

Day two of ID4Africa 2017 wrapped up with hundreds of delegates from dozens of African nations remaining deep in discussion late into the evening in host city Windhoek, Namibia.

The second day of the third annual ID4Africa forum was highlighted by seven information sessions covering a wide range of specific topics in digital identity, as well as a day-long session on document security.

Each of the forum’s day two sessions included several speakers, with topics including overcoming ID systems challenges in Africa, ID in social services, ID in electoral systems, cross-border and regional identity, CRVS and legal identity, e-ID and e-government, and a two-part session on ID in the financial sector moderated by Senior Fellow of the Center for Global Development Alan Gelb.

The four-part session on document security began with a series of expert tutorials and moved on to cover credential security printing and features, e-passports and travel documents, and identity and document fraud. Document Security speakers included renowned experts Peter Cantraine, Head of Technical Sales for Agfa’s ID Security Division, SICPA SA Sales Director, ISS, Catherine Fankhauser, and CEO of OeSD International GmbH Claudia Schwendimann.

With four to six speakers in each session, in addition to moderators, a range of perspectives were shared from a variety of industry and development agency stakeholders, as well as a number of African governments.

Experiences shared reflected a wide range of circumstances. The successful harmonization of biometric standards across government departments in Nigeria’s National Identification Number (NIN) program, was explained by Director General and CEO of the country’s National Identification Management Commission (NIMC), Aliyu Aziz. In contrast, the determined struggle of South Sudan to implement an effective identification program following the country’s history of neglect and conflict, which included a back-and-forth exchange of USB flash drives with government and embassy employees, was presented by Director for Information & Communications Technology (ICT) at the Directorate of Nationality, Passports & Immigration within the Ministry of Interior, Lt. Colonel Deng Kuol Deng.

Product Manager for Security Components and Vertical Solutions at Arjo Systems Jacques Besançon noted that while Silicon Valley produces numerous health care apps, most are irrelevant to the African market, where health care services are lacking in many areas, and the vast majority of mobile devices are not smartphones.

Speakers from private organizations like MasterCard, and from countries which have experience dealing with identity system deployment challenges relevant to African governments such as Pakistan, Peru, and India provided additional insight into the available “Pathways to Digital Identity.”

Himanshu Nagpal, Senior Program Officer on the Financial Services for the Poor team for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said that India’s massive Aadhaar civil registration program has been delivered with costs of roughly $1 per person. A single successful program backed by the Aadhaar registry has saved the country significantly more than the program’s $1.3 billion cost, demonstrating a clear financial incentive for governments in Africa and around the world to update their identity systems.

Among reasons for optimism, Former Director of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Migration Research and Training Centre Charles Harns stated that based on the organization’s experiences in Nigeria, deploying computer systems to all remaining border crossings in Nigeria to electronically verify passports and visas would cost roughly $25 billion, a realistic number for one of Africa’s largest countries.¸

Interoperation, cross-sectorial application, and harmonization remained a common theme among speakers, as well as government attendees in the question and answer portions of the sessions. Other concerns frequently raised attendees on day two of ID4Africa include ethical considerations caused by biometric registration of infants, and uneven implementation of systems, both nationally and regionally.

The enthusiastic interactions at the conclusion of every session challenged the forum’s moderators and organizers to maintain the busy schedule, and dialogue continued after the conclusion of each.

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About Chris Burt

Chris Burt is a writer and contributor to Biometric Update. He has also written nonfiction about information technology, dramatic arts, sports culture, and fantasy basketball, as well as fiction about a doomed astronaut. He lives in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @AFakeChrisBurt."