ID4Africa 2017 launches with survey of stakeholder perspectives and impassioned dialogue

April 26, 2017 - 

ID4Africa 2017 kicked off in Windhoek, Namibia on Wednesday with the opening of the conference’s exhibit hall and a series of plenary sessions including addresses from Namibian Vice-President the Honorable Dr. Nickey Iyambo, who spoke about the importance of UN Sustainable Development Goal 16:9, which targets universal legal identification by 2030.

“My question to my colleagues is: are we going to make that deadline? Quite,” Vice-President Iyambo stated.

Vice-President Iyambo told the packed auditorium and numerous representatives of local media that issues like Namibia’s colonial legacy and absentee fathers have presented practical barriers to identification, which highlight the need for stronger verification techniques.

Speakers opening the conference also included Namibia Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration the Honorable Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, who had announced the imminent launch of Namibia’s new e-birth registration system, and its showcasing at ID4Africa, in welcoming the conference on Tuesday afternoon. The Minister said birth registrations in Namibia have currently reached 60 percent, and also said the country’s border management system will be upgraded to include a biometrics-based automated visa system in September of this year.

ID4Africa Executive Chairman Dr. Joseph Atick welcomed attendees, highlighting the progress of the movement towards universal digital legal identification for all Africans.

World Bank Group Thematic Leader Robert Palacios provided context for presentations by African government identity authorities, saying that as with most countries globally, little data is available on civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) budgets in African nations. Support from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation is contributing to an increase in data gathering efforts, but Palacios characterized the data currently being collected as “the tip of the iceberg.”

Speakers from national identity authorities included Director, Solutions Architecture of the Office of the Prime Minister, Namibia, Stefanus van Staden, Director General of the Department of Home Affairs, South Africa, Mkuseli Apleni, Directeur chez Etat du Senegal Dieh Mandiaye Ba, Director of Registrations and Operations of the National Identification and Registration Authority, Uganda, Brigadier Stephen Kwiringira, and Acting Director of ID Management for the Tanzania National Identification Authority (NIDA), Alphonce Malibiche.

The identity authority leaders spoke about the progress toward digital identities in their countries, as well as adopting new techniques such as mobile capture in support of AFIS programs, and the importance of focussing efforts on service delivery goals and piloting projects before attempting mass registration.

A session featuring representatives of development agencies including Program Manager for Identification for Development (ID4D) at the World Bank, Vyjayanti Desai, Head Project Manager of Telecommunications and Digital Projects of the Agence Français de Développement, Gwenael Prié, Manager for International Relations at Federal Public Service for Information and Communication Technologies (FEDICT), the Belgian development cooperation in Africa, Frank Leyman, Senior ICT Director of the African Development Bank, Samatar Omar Elmi, and Senior Data Advisor of the Center for Digital Development at USAID, Dr. Aubra Anthony.

Desai announced World Bank findings that the number of individuals globally without ID fell from 1.5 billion in 2016 to 1.1 billion, but noted that a disproportionate number of those still without legal identity reside in Africa.

The international agencies also covered topics including the need to avoid data silos, the need to align projects with sustainable growth goals, and instructive examples of digital identity programs. Whether to proceed from small projects to large systems, or “start from scratch,” and the evolution of both development organizations and national governments towards cross-sectorial approaches, as opposed to individual ministries or agencies acting independently, was also a topic of deep discussion.

ID4Africa President Greg Pote moderated a series of reports from leading systems integration companies on the latest technological developments in biometrics and identity systems. The panel included Senior Vice President at Zetes PASS, Ronny Depoortere, Director of Global Public Health – Disease Management, Serge Masyn, GenKey CEO Michiel van der Veen, Chief Commercial Officer at De La Rue Richard Hird, and Program Manager and Managing Director of Safran Morpho, Côte d’Ivoire, Fabien Rouaud.

The lively question and answer following the panel extended well past beyond its scheduled duration, concluding at nearly 8 p.m. local time, with numerous conversations continuing informally afterward.

Biometric Update will continue its coverage as “official journalist” of Africa’s leading digital identity conference throughout the week.

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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."