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ID4Africa survey shows near universal support for biometrics elections among African identity community

This is the first of a four-part series summarizing the most important lessons from ID4Africa's 2018 survey. Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Categories Biometrics News  |  Civil / National ID  |  Elections  |  ID for All  |  In Depth


Every year ID4Africa conducts an extensive survey of professionals at African identity authorities about topics such as their priorities and challenges, the technologies they use, and how successful they are. The results of the 2018 survey were presented on the third day of the conference in Abuja, Nigeria.

Over 60 percent of Africans believe their country will either launch or refresh identity programs in the next 24 months, according to the results of ID4Africa’s annual survey for 2018. The results were announced as part of the final day of ID4Africa 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria, and present a snapshot of the market for biometrics and strong identity across the continent.

The survey included responses from more than 300 members of Africa’s identity community, with a high proportion of government respondents.

The survey showed that over 97 percent of the African identity community believe that biometrics should be used for elections, despite a presentation earlier in the conference pointing out that biometric registration of voters often costs $20 per voter, and does not address such hindrances to free and fair elections as voter intimidation or suppression of the opposition. This indicates that effective democracy on the continent requires foundational identity or lasting voter registries, or both.

The survey showed some significant differences between anglophone and francophone countries, such as relative prioritization of finding funding and increasing public awareness of identity programs, which ID4Africa Executive Chairman Dr. Joseph Atick attributes to differences in cultural and colonial history. Complex enrollment procedures are considered the top reason for incomplete coverage of ID systems, according to anglophone respondents, while only the fourth highest reason, according to francophones.

Roughly one quarter of respondents said their countries have either inadequate identity laws or gaps with no pending legislation, showing that more work is necessary to educate lawmakers.

An important insight for technology vendors is that respondents are generally satisfied with the quality of ID cards, as well as the performance and flexibility of identity solutions, and compliance with international standards. Vendor lock in remains a major issue, however, as does the speed of program implementation.

“Many of our system implementations in Africa are technology driven, and not business-process driven,” Dr. Atick notes.

Fingerprint, face, and iris recognition are the most popular biometric modalities, in that order, with little interest evident in palm vein or voice recognition, according to the survey results. Also, four fingerprints are significantly less popular than 10 fingerprint systems.

The top three uses for identity in Africa are travel, democracy, and financial inclusion, according to the survey results.

ID4Africa will release the official survey results to conference attendees in the near future.

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