ID4Africa 2017 set to continue pan-continental momentum toward universal digital identity

April 25, 2017 - 

Preparations for the ID4Africa Forum 2017 in Windhoek, Namibia have been successfully completed, with the arrival and registration Tuesday of delegates from over 50 nations and 22 development agencies, as well as booths set up by over 90 vendors and supporting organizations in the exhibition hall. The third annual event of the ID4Africa movement and organization will take place April 26-28, with the theme of “Pathways to Digital Identity,” in support of ID4Africa’s mission and year-round work.

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 ID management in the service of development in Africa.

The theme of “Pathways to Digital Identity” recognizes that no single approach represents a universal digital identity solution, and that while the experiences of each can benefit the others, the best pathway for each country is dependent on a variety of circumstances.

Conference organizers from the ID4Africa organization and conference host the Namibia Department of Home Affairs and Immigration expect nearly 1000 delegates to attend the event, up from approximately 600 in 2016. Identity authorities, development agencies, and companies in the identity industry are represented among them.

This year’s program features three days of relevant, comprehensive, and engaging coverage of identity issues that include applications of identification systems to reinforce democracy, support healthcare, build inclusive financial platforms and institutions, reinforce civil registration and e-government initiatives, best measures to combat identity fraud, and enhance security. In addition, particular focus this year will be on cross-border and regional identity, with speakers from leading international organizations such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) emphasizing the importance of developing identity schemes that interoperate among African nations to facilitate free movement and economic exchange.

The overall objective of the Forum, consistent with the ID4Africa movement’s tactical objectives, is to help governments and development organizations understand the social and economic impact of identity systems, asses the current state of affairs of African identity systems, identify opportunities for engagement and collaboration, and transfer knowledge based on real experiences that build capacity. World technology and solutions leaders will also share the latest tools to assist in implementing this knowledge and deploying effective identification systems.

ID4Africa 2017 reflects the rapid growth of the movement. The ID4Africa Ambassador program, initiated during the 2016 conference with eight inaugural ambassadors, has grown to 20 ambassadors, who are committed to promoting access to knowledge, data and information to other identity stakeholders in their respective countries. The number of representatives from African governments has also doubled from 2016 to 2017.

As delegates arrived prior to the conference’s official opening on Wednesday, conversations and exchanges of experience implementing digital identity systems were already being shared, and lively conversations between representatives of different African nations were observed throughout Windhoek’s Safari Court Hotel & Conference Centre.

ID4Africa Executive Chairman Dr. Joseph J. Atick notes that increasing the knowledge base and transparency of the ID ecosystem in Africa encourages market competition, and is making the identity marketplace in Africa much more effective from end to end.

“Anybody that thinks of ID4Africa as a tradeshow is missing the boat,” Dr. Atick told Biometric Update, noting the existence of global trade shows providing a vendor-focussed forum for related issues. “The day every African can claim their legal identity, we will shut down ID4Africa.”

This goal, while drawing closer, remains a challenging ambition, Dr. Atick admits. “We have to be in it for the long term.”

The event will include a total of eight plenary sessions split between Wednesday and Friday, as well as eight tracked informational sessions and a day-long document security symposium on Thursday. Sessions will cover reports from identity authorities, development agencies, and systems integrators, as well as identity in healthcare, electoral systems, border management, banking and payments, document security, and related topics.

As official journalist of ID4Africa, Biometric Update will provide daily coverage of these events, as well as ongoing coverage of the issues and perspectives raised in them, and the progress towards universal legal identity in Africa.

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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."