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Digital ID in Africa this week: Nigeria extends biometric registration, Kenyan groups call for scrutiny

Digital ID in Africa this week: Nigeria extends biometric registration, Kenyan groups call for scrutiny

With the biggest digital ID job to do in Africa in terms of population size, Nigeria dominates the identity agenda this week. The country plans to use biometric registration for flood planning and emergency responses, will bring in compulsory e-Migrant registration for foreigners and is seeing digital ID as a way toward reaching Strategic Development Goals. In Kenya, advocacy groups are increasing their outreach work to encourage more people to speak out against the Huduma Namba legislation as the bill is set to go before parliament. In Rwanda, people may soon be able to ditch their health insurance cards and simply present themselves at a hospital for biometric patient verification.

Kenya: rights groups pushing for greater scrutiny Huduma Namba bill before parliament

The Nubian Rights Forum, a minority rights advocacy group, is calling on Kenyans to read and contest the Huduma Namba bill when it is put before parliament. The bill will bring in the full scope of the Huduma Namba ID project which will radically change how Kenyans access public services.

Taking to Twitter, the group highlighted the most problematic areas of the bill, such as the part the definition of “biometric data”:

“‘(B)iometric data’ includes fingerprint, hand geometry, earlobe geometry, retina and iris patterns, toe impression, voice waves, blood typing, photograph, or such other biological attributes of an individual obtained by way of biometrics.”

The “or such other biological attributes” is seen as a deliberate loophole for the collection of DNA data, despite the Hight Court’s ruling against this.

The bill will go before parliament months after the registration period when 38 million Kenyans signed up for the scheme for which there is no legislation or data privacy protection in place.

The Ministry of the Interior’s initial public participation period also took place after the mass registration period, but groups such as the Nubian Rights Forum are hoping that public pressure while the bill is before parliament could still have a positive impact.

Others sense a slide into the total commodification of Kenyans via their personal data.

Suspicion has been raised by the ongoing census in Kenya as it repeats questions from the Huduma Namba registration, proving an uncomfortable overlap, according to The Daily Nation.

Nigeria: Identity tech to be promoted to help reach UN 2030 Strategic Development Goals

Technology that addresses ID, payments, data and learning is key to boosting development in line with the UN’s Strategic Development Goals, said Yomi Adedeji, CEO of Softcom, a Nigerian tech firm and partner of a Nigerian government training project, speaking at a conference in Lagos on the role of technology, reports The Pulse.

“For any development initiative to be successful, we have to first solve the issue of identity. This is because a one-to-all approach at solving development issues will make little impact and limit sustainability,” said Adedeji. “We must take advantage of technology to identify and enroll our people into the national identity system so everyone can be known and verified; we must democratise quality education, ensuring equal access for everyone, and aggressively drive financial inclusion to ensure that money and the services associated with it are universally accessible.”

Also at the conference, Afolabi Imoukhuede, adviser to the Nigerian government on job creation spoke of “six pillars comprising identity, digital literacy, education, agriculture, financial services and health that would facilitate social inclusion and national development” according to the report.

He said Softcom’s contribution meant that training programs that would have reached just 40,000 have been able to train over 500,000 in 774 local governments. These could be used a model for training schemes across Africa.

Liberia: Civil society calls for use of national ID process for biometric voter registration

A civil society spokesperson is calling for biometric voter registration to be implemented alongside the national biometric ID program which is slowly coming into operation, the Liberian Observer reports.

Marline Jarwoe, chairperson of Bong County Civil Society Organizations, claims the unreliability of the electoral roll undermines the credibility of future elections. The National Identity Registry (NIR) is collecting and storing biometric data in the National Biometric Identification System database, a process which began in 2011 but has made limited progress.

Elections that have been held in the meantime have been contested with issues of voters being turned away from polling stations when their names are not found on electoral rolls. “Since the NIR is already doing citizens’ biometric identification, it will be worthwhile for the [National Electoral Commission] to work with them to use that data for future voter registration,” Jarwoe is quoted as saying.

Other groups are also calling for improved use of the existing systems for a better electoral roll. A roadmap was drawn up after the 2017 elections for the NEC to adopt a biometric voter system “advancing plans to establish a biometric Civil Register and extracting the voter register from the Civil Register.” When Mulbah Morlu, chairperson of the ruling CDC party, visited NIR facilities in January 2019, he said, “I am impressed with the introduction of such modern technology by the Liberian government,” and, according to the report, went on to recommend the use of the National Biometric ID Card in place of a separate voter registration card.

Liberia recently began linking the growing biometric ID database to service users such as banks for verifying customers. The country also recently ran out of new biometric passports it could issue.

Rwanda: Plans to use biometrics rather than health insurance cards to cut costs

The Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) plans to shift to fingerprint and facial recognition to identify subscribers rather than using the existing system of health insurance cards, reports The New Times.

The process could take 18 months and is expected to cost Rwf4 billion ($4.3 million). RSSB director general Richard Tusabe said, “The benefits are huge when you look at the money we have been losing and inefficient services. We can break even (on the Rwf4 billion investment) within one year.”

Currently it takes around 3 months to settle medical bills through the existing system and medical companies fraudulently claim for treatment that was never given, according to the report.

Nigeria: Biometric registration of residents in flood-prone areas and all foreigners

The director general of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) has ordered local governments in the state to begin the biometric capture of residents living in flood-prone areas to create registers that could be used for planning and also in case of an emergency, reports PM News.

Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu is quoted as saying, “The essence of the biometric is to ensure that we have data in place so that we will know the numbers of our citizens that are vulnerable to flood and we can be able to ensure their safety.”

Lagos State has a population between 16 and20 million and is the economic powerhouse for Nigeria, but suffers from very poor drainage, particularly in Lagos city.

At a national level, all foreigners spending more than 90 days in Nigeria will have to register as ‘e-Migrants’ or face deportation, Channels TV reports.

Muhammad Babanded, Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), went said in broadcast interview that after the current amnesty for foreigners that will end on January 11 2020. “Any person who enters this territory and stays for a period of 90 days, there is a penalty for him for not registering and there is a penalty for the person who provides accommodation for him… We are prepared to remove any person who has not registered from this country after the amnesty,” he said

The e-Migrant amnesty period began, in Abuja, on July 12. Babanded said that of the foreigners who had registered so far, 35 percent had “irregularities” in the way they were staying in the country and the amnesty will provide time for them to correct this.

“It is biometric and we are also capturing the picture of the said individual,” said Babanded, “We are linking the registration with NIMC gradually which means one identity for Nigerian, one identity for our visitors.”

Updates and news in brief

Update – Sierra Leone: More details have emerged about the ground-breaking Kiva banking system being set up in Sierra Leone. Reuters has more on the blockchain element and credit facilities. Bank Innovation has an interview with Kiva’s CSO, Matthew Davie.

In Brief – Kenya: The government is launching an appointment booking system for ePassports to avoid queues.

In Brief – Zimbabwe: A delegation is visiting the UK, with a procurement list including biometric access equipment.

Update – Burkina Faso: Over 1.8 million drivers now have the new credit-card sized biometric driving licences.

In Brief – Nigeria: Nigeria’s National Identity Management Commission is opening an ID signup center in Accra, Ghana, for its nationals and also in Austria and Germany.

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