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Experts encourage African governments, firms to examine biometric risks


An African biometrics consultancy recently outlined the risks of biometric adoption for African governments and commercial concerns in an article published in AllAfrica.com.

Research analysts at the research laboratory of Namibia Biometrics Systems (NBS), a firm which conducts applied research in biometric system implementation for both government and commercial organizations, have outlined the most common problems when implementing biometrics based solutions.

According to Dr. Risco Mutelo, one of the most common pitfalls are that “governments and commercial companies don’t have the technical in-house expertise to properly manage or oversee the implementation of biometric technology and lack essential project management skills and resources. As a result, the project management team fails to realistically identify possible sources of risk and to consider any mitigating factors and provide appropriate responses. This can lead to the project being poorly managed, risking the safety of the biometrics data, risking the project completion timeframe and provide the vendors of the technology a central role in the implementation of the technology without proper oversight. The issue of identity management and protecting people’s identities is one of the core responsibilities that companies have when implementing biometrics based solution.”

Dr. Mutelo also identifies vendor consultation and tender selection as major issues. In terms of consultation, he notes: “Sufficient time for consultations with technical experts before, during and after implementation is critical to the success of the project. Generally, governments and commercial companies are not prepared for the complexities of implementing biometrics based solutions, and either are not aware or lack the understanding of why consultation with a local specialist is critical. Consultation is also essential for successful project plan.”

He also notes: “Governments and private companies tend to place significant trust on tender winning companies, which have very different priorities. These conflicting priorities can have dangerous implications for the implementation of the project. In addition, governments and private companies tend to lack the knowledge and understanding of the technology, and therefore don’t have the skills and experts to eliminate tendering companies with limited or no experience with the technology.”

Dr. Mutelo unsurprisingly suggests that governments and commercial operators should obtain the services of a consultancy before they make concrete decisions about biometric implementation.

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