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More challenges for biometric voter rolls as partnerships bring authentication options to African market



Digital ID in West African elections leads the biometrics agenda in Africa this week as neighbors Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire progress with varying levels of success through their registration exercises. Zimbabwe brings different examples of the use of biometrics, with a sports lecturer suggesting biometric voter kits be employed to tackle the issue of age cheating, and a host of news on international partnerships being formed across the continent to develop biometric services.

Côte d’Ivoire: Montreal expat biometric votes lost in the post

Members of Côte d’Ivoire’s expat community in Quebec who have recently registered on their home country’s electoral roll will not be able to vote in October’s election after the registration documentation was lost in the post on its way to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s de facto capital, reports Afrik Soir.

The forms and memory cards containing biometric data from 233 expats newly signing up at two voting centers in Montreal were sent by DHL to the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) in Abidjan, but failed to arrive. Enquiries with DHL revealed the package had been destroyed in transit.

These voters are not the only Ivorians in Canada not to be added to the list. According to the article, at least five out of 18 local electoral bodies have not been able to register their members due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Côte d’Ivoire is going to the polls on October 31 and the incumbent president, Alassane Ouattara, announced last week that he will stand for a third term, against the country’s constitutional limit of two terms.

Ghana election roundup: ID-free registration still high, poor fingerprints and a new committee

Ghana’s biometric electoral roll exercise continues to generate headlines. This week we have two ways of looking at the latest sign-up statistic of reaching over 16 million voters as the 38-day mass registration ends. The target had been 15 million according to some accounts, 17 million according to others.

“Let me say that this registration exercise has been the best so far in terms of the conduct of our officials,” said acting Public Affairs Director of the election management body, Sylvia Annor, speaking on Class91.3FM, the station reports.

So successful that apparently registration centers were idle for the last few days as everyone had already signed up. However, a ‘mop up’ period was added with a final chance for anyone else to register over the weekend of August 8 and 9. There is also the issue of de-deduplication to tackle. A 16-member adjudication committee has been established by the Electoral Commission to oversee removing double entries. The committee is made up of EC members, political party representatives and civil society.

The announcement has been met with criticism as some feel that the IT system behind registration should work in real time to prevent multiple registration in the first place.

Figures from the EC show that 38 percent of new electoral roll are ‘guaranteed registrants,’ those who have two people guaranteeing their identity rather than the correct documents. Only the biometric Ghana Card and passport are valid credentials for registering this time, meaning many people without these documents have to rely on others to vouch for them. Previous exercises have seen far higher rates, but commission chief Jean Mensa previously said: “I hope and pray that the 2020 election should be the last time that we, as a country, would need the guarantor system. Come 2020, all citizens should be issued with the National Identification Card.”

Fingerprints were an issue in the exercise as over 61,000 voters registering were deemed to have fingerprints which could not be captured, reports Class FM. This means that come polling day they will verified by facial recognition. The highest rate was Upper East region where 1.42 percent of voters registering were affected.

Zimbabwe: China’s Clou Global and Bulawayo company partner to distribute face scanners

Bulawayo-based Brains at Work Consulting is partnering with Clou Global Technology to distribute their facial recognition systems with inbuilt temperature scanners, reports The Chronicle.

Brains at Work will sell the systems to enterprises to form part of their clocking in process and detect people who may have an infectious disease.

Nigeria: Fact check on new NIMC ID wallet app

A fact-checking exercise by Nigeria’s International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) has found that a story swirling through the country’s social media is based on fact, but the messages are not from who they appear to be from.

The ICIR investigated WhatsApp messages purportedly sent by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) about a new mobile phone app which can integrate all Federal Government-approved identity credentials.

The organization found that the app is real, but NIMC has not been urging people to start using it. The app appears to allow users to verify ID credentials such as driving licence and ID card, possibly to prove identity from a mobile device.

NIMC spokesperson Kayode Adegoke told ICIR that the app is real and he himself has it on his phone: “We are building up the mobile applications where Nigerians can actually access their cards. We are doing the pre-trial stage but we have never asked anyone to supply their BVN number or Tax number or so.”

Opinion & Reports

Zimbabwe: Biometrics to tackle age cheating in sports

Biometrics could put an end to age cheating which has skewed school and youth sport in Zimbabwe, according to an athletics coach and sports science lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology, reports The Chronicle. According to the article, age cheating, where individuals or their schools claim children to be younger than they are to give them an advantage competing in set age ranges, is rife and impacts professional sports.

Lecturer Bhekuzulu Khumalo says, “The biometric machines used for voter registration during elections could be used to collect such data for every Zimbabwean child starting from [Early Childhood Development] level. This then would be the system to use at sports vetting, meaning one cannot change personal details against the biometric data.

“Zimbabwe uses biometric data to identify voters during elections then the gadgets lie idle in between elections. My view is that these machines can be used to gather data of all citizens of all ages. Use schools as centres for data collection. After all, teachers are trained to use these machines, as they are the ones involved in elections.”

News in Brief & Updates

Link – Nigeria: Our coverage of VerifyMe Nigeria, a private identity verification company with ambitions to build trust by creating lifelong profiles and checks.

In brief – Ghana: Thales and Clydestone Ghana have partnered to create an ‘authentication as a service platform,’ called The One, according to a release. The platform will allow strong customer authentication for online payments with unique codes generated or biometric verification via users’ devices.

Update – Liberia: Government employees have to present a biometric ID card in order to continue receiving salaries. Figures from the Interagency Payroll Clean-up Task Force show that 19,205 of the 70,000 on the payroll do not yet have the national biometrics ID card and must register before August 15 or risk losing their salary, reports the Liberian Observer.

Guest post – South Africa: A guest post for Biometric Update by Yoti’s Digital Identity Fellow, Tshepo Magoma, on the issues impinging on digital and biometric identity in South Africa.

Link – Nigeria: Our coverage of research into developing laughter as a type of biometric verification.

Link – South Africa: Our coverage of Capitec bank introducing biometric fingerprint readers rather than paper forms to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. The readers will be disinfected after every use.

Link – South Africa: Our coverage of Comcorp selecting BioID for facial recognition and liveness detection to launch its Curata authentication solution.

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