Biometrics in Africa this week: Idemia suspension in Kenya overturned, local solutions sought for cybercrime

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Kenya’s biometric past and present are covered this week from multiple angles. Its electoral commission will continue to use the kit bought from Idemia despite a controversial past after the High Court overturned the imposition of a ten-year ban on the French firm. Also in Kenya, the effects of humanitarian involvement in biometrics are examined in a detailed account of the double-registered. Elsewhere, cybercrime and coronavirus are causing problems on the continent.

Kenya: Electoral commission will continue to use Idemia kits says chairman

Wafula Chebukati, chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), has announced that the commission will procure software updates to continue using Idemia kits after the country’s High Court overturned the National Assembly’s recommendation to suspend the French firm’s operations in Kenya for 10 years, reports The Daily Nation.

The IEBC intends to use Idemia kit for the 2022 general election. Also overturned by the High Court was the National Assembly’s request to cancel all contracts between Idemia and the IEBC. The commission will re-use the equipment “should the situation allow” said Chebukati in the interview with the Nation.

The contracts were due to expire in 2021 but the commission wants the Treasury to allocate funds to buy software from Idemia to keep the equipment it owns up to date, as a cost-cutting measure according to Chebukati.

The dispute over Idemia kit dates back to the 2017 general election when the firm was blamed for issues with transmitting results, which was a key part of the opposition successfully securing a nullification of the outcome via the Supreme Court. The latest decision to overturn the ban could prove highly controversial.

Kenya: The problem with humanitarian biometrics

Biometric registration of starving Somali Kenyans claiming to be Somalians refugees fleeing civil war at home has rendered the Kenyans stateless in their own country. When required to register again for the national ID system, their previous registration as refugees at UNHCR camps means their applications are rejected.

Keren Weitzberg records the stories of Kenyans prevented from leading a normal life in their own country in a piece for Coda’s Authoritarian Tech section.

Attempts to vet doubled-registered individuals to de-register them as refugees are having some success, but many lack the required documents or are fearful of coming forward. At Biometric Update we have covered aspects of this story, but Weiztberg’s article offers a thorough overview full of the accounts of those affected.

ID4Africa: Crime prevention vs customer experience

The next in the series of ID4Africa articles examines the need for balance between data protection and user experience. Dr. Stephen Topliss and Nina Kerkez of LexisNexis discuss how opportunities for public good via data collection can be lost through heavy handed or misconstrued data protection legislation.

Nigeria: Local anti-cybercrime expertise wanted

Biometrics academic and head of ICT at the National Health Insurance Scheme, Kenneth Okereafor, cites the low attribution rates and poor judicial deterrent for cybercrime as the reasons for its continued rise in Africa, reports The Guardian.

“Organizations in the public and private sectors should desist from withholding the reporting of cyber breaches for fear of reputational backlash or regulatory sanctions,” Okereafor is quoted as saying.

William Makatiani, managing director of pan-African cyber-security firm Serianu believes that local cybercrime requires a local solution: “Security is complicated because there is a local aspect around securing systems; most of our fraudsters live here. There is no way somebody will come from the U.S. and secure it, that is the hard work. We need somebody to understand how these people are doing it. Only locals can do it.”

Meanwhile, along the Gulf of Guinea, the Ghana Football Association’s recent introduction of biometric security also included a sweep through the building for bugs, listening devices and hidden cameras. While aimed to reduce the cybercrime risk alongside biometric access control, the whole plan has been widely criticized over cost.

Coronavirus & Biometrics in Africa

Ghana: Nurses relying on family for food

Nursing staff who are not able to be paid as a result of biometric capture being suspended are having to rely on their families for food as the country faces a worsening COVID-19 outbreak, reports GhanaWeb.

Nigeria: Further port restrictions

The managing director of Nigeria’s roll-on/roll-off terminal, the Ports and Terminal Multiservices Limited, says the company has increased the use of protective equipment at the ports and social distancing while restricting the number of biometric access cards by the agencies that operate at the port.

News in Brief & Updates

Malawi & Kenya: Our coverage of a report by the GSMA and the UK’s DfID on the differing landscapes for the distribution of welfare payments via mobile money.

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