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Local investment and biometric privacy protection key BIO-key Africa strategy, executive says

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BIO-key Africa is planning a country by country strategy, and anticipates adding two dedicated business development resources to cover its initial targets in West Africa, including Nigeria and Ghana, according to BIO-key Africa Managing Director Dr. Maduawuchi “Steve” Uwazie.

Uwazie told Biometric Update in a recent email interview that after that, the company will target East Africa, including Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, while also expanding opportunistically. Expansion across the continent, however, will not only be about product availability.

“Along with providing best in class security solutions we will be forging relationships within the educational ecosystem to train and develop technology resources that can support the rapid expansion of biometric deployments across Africa,” says Uwazie. “In conjunction with Technology Transfer Institute (TTI) our vision is to enhance the level of technical capability for young people while creating new jobs for those pursuing technical careers. We are making a commitment to invest in the market today and to re-invest as we grow and expand.”

The partnership with TTI was launched just a month ago by the parent company, with the announcement of BIO-key Africa following closely. The company clearly intends to move quickly.

Government projects, and Civil ID in particular represents the vertical with the most immediate opportunity for BIO-key Africa, according to Uwazie.

“We already have inroads to a few of these projects that will soon to be determined,” he says. “Next will be Financial Services (BIO-key fastest growing vertical) and Healthcare where the requirement to positively identify patients and provide secure access to information is critical.”

Uwazie notes BIO-key also has significant experience in these markets.

The WEB-key Biometric Security platform will play a key role for the company as it introduces its solutions throughout the continent, Uwazie states, with its broad support for biometric and other authentication technologies.

“WEB-key has been vetted and tested and is trusted by some of the most influential government agencies including the Israeli Defense Force, the Singapore and Dubai police departments and by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) for the National SIM Card Registration Program as well as hundreds of enterprise organizations around the globe,” Uwazie explains.

“Our fingerprint scanners will also play a critical role as they enable enrollment and utilization of the biometric ecosystem. We’ll introduce several options to the African market, ranging from our high quality, low cost scanners such as SideSwipe and SidePass that attach to the USB port of any laptop, tablet or notebook computer, to our EcoID and PIV-Pro which connect to desktop computers via cable,” he continues.

“We also anticipate that we will be called upon to provide professional services and technical support for each project and will have local resources available provide that support.”

The email conversation turns to data privacy, and the fragmented legal situation across Africa, which Uwazie identifies as “obviously a genuine concern.”

“The good news is that it’s actually our strength and let me explain it this way,” he says. “You are 100 percent correct that data protection landscapes vary country to country and there’s no denying that. At BIO-key we work “across all verticals” and across all “scopes”, meaning the size of the project and the capabilities of the customer vary tremendously project to project. Therefore we know how to be flexible and how to adapt to varying IT environments while providing the highest levels of data encryption and security.”

Uwazie also notes that BIO-key never stores raw biometric data, but converts it to encrypted templates.

“We don’t own the data – we just secure it better than anyone else,” he claims.

“Ultimately BIO-key’s goal is to be an advocate for a branded solution for the “national” utilization of biometrics as a global form of identification in Africa and to encourage legislators in each country to adopt laws and regulations that will protect the privacy of its citizens,” Uwazie contends. “We believe our 26-year history of developing and delivering biometric technology security solutions that have stood the test of time, ideally position us to be the branded biometric technology provider for a continent that has proven to embrace the technology.”

Nigeria is continuing with its ambitious plans, and with the market for biometrics growing quickly all across Africa, BIO-key is looking to position itself to take a leading role in leveraging local talent to deliver effective identity solutions.

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