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Nigeria reaches 41M biometric NIN registrations as second Mission Billion Challenge opens

Nigeria reaches 41M biometric NIN registrations as second Mission Billion Challenge opens

COVID-19 may be slowing down registrations for ID numbers in Nigeria, but Ghana is determined to keep on with biometric voter registration, and the World Bank states how the pandemic has proven the value of secure ID-based welfare programs. Life goes on, and discussions of some of the realities of identity bring some context to the sector in Nigeria.

Africa: Continental change for data protection law

Free trade agreements and pandemics require a broader approach to data protection while governments and businesses could infringe personal privacy with their biometric and data gathering practices, according to a roundup of data protection issues from a legal perspective.

The article for Law.com sets out how there is only data protection legislation in fewer than half the countries in Africa, and only nine have active rather than draft legislation.

Continental legislation from the African Union is already out of date as it is taking so long to implement and biometric ID schemes can be a threat to personal privacy according to one lawyer. But an impetus for change is on the way, according to another, due to the Digital Economy Initiative for Africa.

The article cites examples of legislation in various countries, but a Ugandan lawyer points to the fact that as new technologies like AI and blockchain are adopted, there remains very little appreciation of the associated data management responsibilities.

World Bank: Second year of Mission Billion Challenge launches

The World Bank’s ID4D (Identification for Development) Mission Billion Challenge is open for a second year. The competition seeks technological innovations to aid the ambition of providing the billion undocumented people around the world with legal ID.

The COVID-19 pandemic has galvanized this year’s challenge:

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlights how countries with platforms (such as digital ID systems, digital payment systems, and integrated social protection information ecosystems) are able to quickly scale up existing or introduce new social protection programs. In particular, countries with such assets have been able to efficiently make emergency cash transfers to vulnerable groups—such as women and girls, the poor, informal workers, migrant workers, people living in remote areas, and refugees.

“The Mission Billion Challenge seeks solutions to how countries can increase their efforts to further support these groups—who often lack smartphones, computers and broadband internet access—so they can access services and cash transfers with minimal health risks.”

The competition opened on May 27 with an August 14 deadline. There is an additional WURI West Africa Prize for the best answer to “How can informal sector workers in West Africa more easily participate in social protection programs?”

The winners of the first year of the competition were announced in January. Simprints won with an open source toolkit for enabling meaningful informed consent with audio messages submitted by persons being registered. Solid was awarded second place for a decentralized digital ID and data storage platform using existing internet technology.

Nigeria: 41 million Nigerians issued with ID as registration slows

Nigeria’s National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) reports it has enrolled and issued National Identity Numbers (NIN) to 41 million people, according to The Punch.

The report states that the commission’s director general, Aliyu Aziz, told journalists that among the challenges meaning that the registration is slowing are a lack of electricity, lack of devices, facilities and insufficient awareness raising among the public. And, more recently, COVID-19.


Nigeria: How to hire a ghost worker and the national identity ‘mystique’

Beyond the news on the NIMC, NIN and e-visas, there are the day-to-day experiences of over 200 million Nigerians dealing with identity issues. Here are two insights from the country’s vast online offering of blogs and media. First, an article in PM News Nigeria constructed from the Twitter thread of Dr. Joe Abah.

The former barrister also worked as the Head of the Bureau for Public Sector Reform and is now country director for DAI (Development Alternatives Incorporated), a private development company whose main clients are USAID and DfID.

The article covers the many ways people have created ghost workers and how even now they can still be inserted with computerized systems, and why the BVN system will be fought “to the death” by the corrupt. As a Twitter feed, every sentence is a discussion, every paragraph liked and retweeted hundreds of times.

Writing on Blueprint, Julius Ogar describes the “mystique” of the Nigerian identity, opening with, “Nigerians are peculiar in sarcasm! We have this uncanny talent to weave our dysfunctional system and national tragedy into comical anecdotes and innuendos. Some people have honed this skill into a trade and make cool money from it as comedians.”

He states that it is “a mirage that despite the existence of such an array of sources, the average Nigerian’s identity is still shrouded in bureaucratic mysticism and corruption.” Even simple procedures reveal the flaws in the system, according to Ogar: “Renewing a passport with the Nigerian Immigration Service almost takes the same process as the application for a fresh one. Summary information about a citizen cannot be harvested seamlessly even by security agencies like the police.”

It is a state of affairs that allows all sorts of problems to flourish: “The absence of a standard and accessible database is the reason why crime and militancy are rampant.”

News in Brief & Updates

Ghana: The Electoral Commission outlines plans for safe biometric voter registration during COVID-19 including PPE for the officials, queue spacing and compulsory face masks for those registering, and a temperature check before entry.

Link – Africa: Our coverage of the ID4Africa webinar on ID management in Africa during the COVID-19 outbreak, June 3, and how to register.

In brief – Africa: A summary by Grey Dynamics of some of the progress Huawei has made with telecoms and surveillance infrastructure across the continent.

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