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Biometrics and digital ID across Africa this week: crime and its prevention, Red Cross blockchain



The theme this week shifts to crime. Biometrics are being used in a new national sex offenders register for Nigeria, anti-police corruption efforts in Kenya and to prevent cybercrime and identity fraud in South Africa and Nigeria. Also in Kenya, a new project will create local blockchain currencies to distribute aid and promote economic growth in poor and rural areas. Globally, Africa’s biometric footprint widens with new e-passport and biometric visa facilities opening in East Asia.

Nigeria: Biometrics-based sex offenders register launched

Nigeria launched its first national database for sex offenders on November 25, the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women reports The Pulse. The National Sex Offenders database will use offender biometrics, according to Ventures Africa. Previously only two states had registers which were poorly maintained.

Funded by the European Union and British Council, the register was devised with security agencies and civil societies to tackle sexual and gender-based violence. The register is reported to contain the offenders’ biodata, biometric features, addresses, BVN and DNA. However, BVN levels are low in Nigeria.

Ventures Africa states that a group of 150 NGOs will monitor the police and media and update the register on a monthly basis.

Kenya: Red Cross launches blockchain for local currencies to stimulate economies

The Red Cross Societies of Denmark, Norway and Kenya have embarked on a two-year project in slums and rural areas of Kenya to create blockchain-based currencies to encourage people to sell and trade their goods and services and lend and borrow money, reports the Thompson Reuters Foundation.

The schemes are targeted at areas where people have low value goods or services which are often hard to value such as offering labor and teaching, and bartering is inefficient at a larger scale. With no cash to exchange, village-level loans had been recorded on slips of paper and kept in locked boxes.

The project will use blockchain decentralized ledgers to create ‘local currencies’ as a way to keep track of interactions and stimulate economic activity. It will operate as credits transferred by mobile phone meaning villagers can be paid for their labor and use credits earnt to buy other goods and services. Aid funding will also be injected into the system. Groups can pool resources within the scheme to create credit unions, all via simple feature phone apps.

The scheme is expected to be rolled out in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Cameroon in Africa plus Myanmar and Papua New Guinea.

Africa: Bleak forecast for cybercrime in Africa, but home-grown defences strengthening

As the sheer amount of personal information being generated in the digital realm, cybersecurity experts at Kaspersky predict a growth in the number and sophistication of threats for Africa in 2020, reports Rwanda’s New Times.

The increase in targets from the growing volume of data available and the increasing sophistication of threat technology such as machine learning are forecast to lead to more targeted attacks but across a wider range of targets. Biometric data is expected to become more frequently targeted, especially as banking opens up its infrastructure to more third parties. IoT devices are also seeing a dramatic upsurge in attacks.

South Africa alone saw a 99 percent increase in identity fraud year on year to September, something local startup, iiDENTIFii, by company 1 Identity, is hoping to tackle, reports VentureBurn.

The startup’s platform works by users taking a photo of their ID document issued by an official authority which uses facial biometrics, plus a selfie of that user. With a 3D liveness detector built in, the process recognizes the text on the ID, process the photo of the user embedded in the ID and matches it against the new selfie. This technology is particularly useful for onboarding, providing remote KYC data. The startup is already partnering with Standard Bank for remote biometric authentication and automated onboarding.

Kenya: Police undergo biometric capture as police stations digitize to reduce corruption

Police officers across Kenya are to undergo biometric capture as part of an effort to curb police corruption with digital ‘occurrence books,’ reports The Daily Nation.

According to Transparency International, Kenya is one of the most corrupt countries on Earth, ranking 144 out of 180. Far from tackling corruption, the police are one of the main causes. The police department is Kenya’s most corrupt service, according to The Daily Nation report.

Starting in March, police across the country started undergoing biometric capture, in part to weed out ghost workers. All officers then had to undergo compulsory ICT training in the run up to November’s launch of digital ‘occurrence books.’

Police officers will now be expected to create a digital log of all interactions such as arrests and fines. Corrupt officers had previously negotiated bribes instead. The cases will be visible to senior officers.

There are concerns over enforcing the use of the new system and how rural police stations without electricity will maintain a digital occurrences book.

News in brief and updates

In brief – Namibia: The electoral commission’s biometric voter register suffered technical issues during the general election, leading to difficulties in voting in some polling stations. There were also issues with electronic voting machines.

In brief – Nigeria: VerifyMe Nigeria launches the country’s first home-made KYC platform, a self-managed verification platform. It offers real-time integration with NIMC, BVNs and the other databases that will form the single, unified national ID database.

In brief – Ghana: Ghana will become the first country in Africa to launch a Universal QR scheme to allow all retailers to accept electronic payments without POS devices.

Update – Tanzania: Campaigning for SIM card registration still in full swing despite recent announcement that unregistered SIM cards would now not be blocked after the December 31 deadline.

Link – South Africa: Our coverage of safe community schemes using facial recognition and person of interest list.

In brief – Nigeria/Japan/South Korea: Nigeria opens new e-passport and biometric visa facilities in Tokyo and Seoul. The system will integrate with international crime fighting organizations such as Interpol. Minister of Interior warns Nigerian-Japanese dual nationals not to apply for new e-passport.

Link – Africa: Our coverage of a two-factor biometric smart card developed by Next Biometrics and Softlock entering its pilot stage.

In brief – Nigeria: The Federal Government approved PPP projects worth $8 billion in the past 8 years including the ECOWAS biometric ID card scheme.

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