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BIO-key International to provide fingerprint technology for SIM card program in Nigeria


BIO-key International has announced that SW Global, a provider of Information Technology Services throughout Africa, will implement the company’s fingerprint biometric technology as a part of a Nigerian Communications Commission objective.

The independent national regulatory authority for the Nigerian telecommunications industry, the Nigerian Communications Commission’s SIM Card registration program – for which BIO-key’s technology will be used — has already classified and biometrically enrolled the purchasers of over 110 million SIM cards. According to the company, this makes the NSIM project one of the largest biometric identity management projects in the world.

Specifically, BIO-key will provide technology to support the enrollment and de-duplication of the country’s entire mobile phone user population.

The Nigerian SIM Card Registration program was conceived to combat fraud and criminal activity by securing the identities of all Mobile Network subscribers nationwide. The goal was to implement a solution that is secure, cost effective, widely accepted and integrates with other identity databases in the country.

The process includes enrolling subscribers and associating their identity with the ownership of SIM cards and mobile phone numbers. BIO-key’s fingerprint technology automates the detection of multiple identity holders, and ensures a permanent physical connection of every person to a single identity.

Nigeria has an estimated 110 million SIM cards in use and issues approximately 8 million new SIMs annually through multiple Mobile Network Operators. Historically, most of the issued SIM cards were for prepaid lines and were not registered before issuance.

A similar system was proposed by the Telecommunications Authority in Pakistan, though the fingerprint mandate has yet to be enforced, following bureaucratic disruptions.

Under the proposed system in Pakistan, all telecom operators are to biometrically verify the identity of people buying SIM cards, as there have been fears that unregistered phones have become common tools for criminals in the country. This new system was frustrating for many operators who felt as though this additional cost for verification was too much to bear.

Originally, the verification systems were set to be operational by the end of February, 2013, though absent officials have now extended this period indefinitely. 

“Through our partnership with SW Global, we are delivering one of the largest commercial/civil identification programs in the world using our core WEB-key AFIS biometric engine. When the database of registered users is fully scrubbed, each SIM card will be associated with a user and anonymous SIMs, which many times are used for criminal purposes, will no longer be active,” Mike DePasquale, BIO-key CEO said. “Also, the SIM Registration dataset can become a platform for additional services such as mobile banking and electronic payments, since the NCC has the ability to positively identify each individual tied to a mobile device. The citizens of Nigeria will be using state-of-the-art technology providing better security and functionality than most countries around the globe. We plan on capitalizing on our success with SW Global and the NCC in marketing this solution to other countries that have similar requirements, leading to additional revenue opportunities for BIO-key.”


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