NEC and Simprints join forces with Gavi to extend vaccination coverage with biometrics

In an effort to deploy a scalable child fingerprint identification solution they say will be the world’s first, NEC, Simprints, and vaccine alliance Gavi have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together.

The companies plan to use biometrics to increase immunization coverage in developing countries. Research by Gavi indicates that some 20 million children who do not receive a basic course of vaccines worldwide, despite progress over the past two decades. Only half of children under 5 years old in sub-Saharan Africa are registered at birth, which means many do not have an official identity. This makes it difficult for health practitioners to deliver the right vaccine at the right time, according to the announcement.

“We are in the middle of a global identity crisis: right now there are millions of children, mainly in Africa, without any form of official birth registration, let alone a medical record,” comments Gavi Board Chair Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. “This lack of good data makes it extremely hard to give the hardest to reach access to vital healthcare, including vaccines. That’s why this partnership is so exciting, bringing together cutting edge technology and Gavi’s know-how to help protect children in developing countries from some of the world’s deadliest diseases.”

Biometric fingerprint technology from Simprints, NEC’s reinforced authentication engine, and Gavi’s immunization experience and expertise will be combined by the organizations to help create digital identities for children between one and five years of age, linked to complete and accurate medical records. Biometric records will be stored securely by Simprints, after informed consent is given by caregivers.

Simprints recently won the Word Bank ID4D group’s Mission Billion Challenge for its work on enabling informed consent.

“Partnering with Gavi and NEC, Simprints is thrilled by this opportunity to leverage biometrics to help reach millions of the most vulnerable children worldwide with life-saving vaccinations,” says Simprints CEO and Co-founder Toby Norman. “Simprints’ mission is to transform the way the world fights global poverty, building technology to radically increase transparency and effectiveness in global development and ensuring that every vaccine, every dollar, every public good reaches the people who need them most.”

Infant fingerprints are often blurred due to softness, but NEC says its fingerprint authentication engine overcomes this issue with image optimization, which the company’s research has shown can deliver a 99 percent certification rate with images from Simprints scanners.

Proof of concept validation will take place in Bangladesh and Tanzania by early 2020, and if successful, will progress to linking children’s digital identities with their vaccination records.

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