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Digital ID in Africa this week: biometric registration for govt employees, SIM cards and elections

Digital ID in Africa this week: biometric registration for govt employees, SIM cards and elections

As biometrics enter more areas of life across Africa, Biometric Update provides monitoring of the continent. This week, biometric exam registrations catch cheats but cause delays in Nigeria; Tanzania launches biometric registration for SIM cards; striking judicial staff are to take part in biometric capture in return for pay in Kogi State, Nigeria; and Malawi prepares for its first elections with biometric registration for voters.

Malawi: First biometric elections

Malawi is preparing for its first elections where biometrics will be used to verify voter identities. Only voters who have already undergone biometric registration will be able to cast ballots in tri-partite elections on May 21. Registration uses the same Laxton Group equipment as used for creating the country’s ID cards.

The process has proved controversial with Biometric Voter Registrations (BVR) equipment and its data going missing before being found again, according to the Nyasa Times, and the opposition claim that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has failed to register the entire electorate.

The MEC’s final figure after adjustments and data cleaning is 6.86 million registered voters, based on a final sweep of the biometric kits once they were all returned to the central warehouse, Malawi 24 reports. 7.47 million voters were registered for the 2014, with an almost 71 percent turnout based on 5.26 million votes cast according to EISA statistics.

The kits belong to the country’s National Registration Bureau, after the United Nations Development Program awarded a contract to Laxton Group in 2017. Laxton supplied 2,000 Biometric Registration Kits for the country’s ID card scheme, and 9.5 million Malawians were registered in six months, the company says. The kits include fingerprint and document scanners, signature pads, cameras, thermal printers and a laptop and both battery and solar power supply. Registering for an ID card is a prerequisite of biometric voter registration.

The EU, Commonwealth of Nations and the African Union will be sending teams of observers to monitor procedures before, during and after the vote. Following Malawi’s 2014 tri-partite elections (for president, National Assembly and local councilors), the EU observer mission recommended biometric verification for future polls after disparities emerged between the number of votes cast at certain polling stations compared to the number of voters registered, VOA News reports.

Tanzania: Biometric verification to be required to verify SIMs

Biometric verification of mobile telephone numbers in Tanzania is set to begin on May 1, according to local media reports. The ID card issued by the country’s National Identification Authority (NIDA) will be the sole document required for the process. Over 43 million SIM cards are in use, yet only around 2.5 million Tanzanians have an ID card, out of a target of 24.3 million adults. 19.3 million have registered and NIDA said it is finalizing plans to increase card printing capacity.

The verification process follows pilot schemes around the country in 2018 and will last from May 1 to 30 September, after when unregistered SIM cards will no longer function, according to reports. SIMs previously registered via non-biometric schemes will have to be re-registered.

Mobile phone subscribers are expected to use the same NIDA offices that capture biometrics for issuing ID cards to verify their fingerprints to register their SIMs. The Tanzanian president, John Magufuli, has called on NIDA to speed up the issuance of ID cards, according to The Citizen.

NIDA itself aims to capture 100 percent of the adult population’s fingerprints to issue the free ID cards by the end of 2019. Large-scale registration began in 2013.

Nigeria: Biometrics for paychecks

A strike by judicial staff in Nigeria’s Kogi State over the screening and biometric capture of staff was halted on Monday April 29 after a delegation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) held an emergency meeting with the state executive on Sunday, according to the Daily Post.

The session followed a meeting on Wednesday 25 April where the NJC recommended the judiciary comply with the state’s biometric exercise and table payment measures.

The strike began on December 11 2018 over proposed auditing and screening of judicial staff. Including judicial staff in the biometric capture of civil servants is a further move to reduce the number of ‘ghost workers’ on the state’s books.

The system known as a ‘pay parade’ or ‘table pay’ in Nigeria, requires employees to present themselves for verification and be paid by cheque. It used to be the standard before bank transfers became common.

Kogi has run biometric capture schemes in the past, with Seamfix providing the technical expertise in 2014 when former governor Idris Wada was one of the first to have his biometrics captured.

Kogi is not the only Nigerian state to implement biometric matching before paying salaries. According to local reports, in 2016, the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike announced his reasons for introducing biometric capture for staff: “There are cabals in the civil service making money. I have the political will and I will stop the trend whereby government will be paying over 5 billion as salaries and some people will be taking half of the money”.

Nigeria: University entry exam results delayed despite biometrics

Fraud and impersonation mean university hopefuls in Nigeria are still waiting for their Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) results. One hundred fraudsters were intercepted nationwide, including one who registered 64 times to ‘ghost write’ the exam for other candidates, according to a bulletin from the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB).

The Biometric Verification Mode requires students to provide all ten fingerprints and a backup photo at registration to be admitted to the exam centres. Yet failures in the system mean widespread cheating is believed to have taken place. The examination board is delaying the results on the national standardised tests until it has managed to check data for all cases of individuals sitting the exam multiple times, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.

A record 1.8 million students sat the computer-based UTMEs at 678 centres between 11-18 April, with numbers up in part due to reduced fees. However, JAMB claims that multiple fraudulent registrations could be inflating that figure by as much as 30 percent.

Dr. Fabian Benjamin, the head of the JAMB, told NAN there was around 98 percent success in the conduct of the 2019 exam. Multiple reports of issues such as equipment not recognizing candidates’ fingerprints emerged, alongside problems such as centers reporting technical hitches and slow connections.

A JAMB release states that the board itself brought 22 candidates who had issues registering their biometrics to its HQ, compared to over 24,000 candidates who had to reschedule their exams after ‘biometric challenges’ in previous years.

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