Mühlbauer biometric tax ID cards for Congo, beta app problems for Africa’s largest digital ID system

Mühlbauer biometric tax ID cards for Congo, beta app problems for Africa’s largest digital ID system

Nigeria’s biometrics-backed ID ambitions have taken another twist as more people try the new government app to manage their identities digitally. Meanwhile, the bigger issue facing many is simply the waiting game to receive their identity numbers and documentation. South Africa is joining a handful of African nations by trying a digital census and the Republic of Congo has launched a possible world first: biometric taxpayer ID cards.

Nigeria: New NIMC ID app and data privacy

Still in its beta release, the National Identity Management Commission’s new mobile app is courting more controversy as experts declare issues with data privacy and people trying it out are finding it returns the details of other people, reports IT Edge News.

A panel reviewing identity and biometrics issues in Nigeria recently announced a focus on a digital handling of the biometric National Identity Number (NIN). The app developed by the NIMC is described in the app blurb (on the Apple app store) as

“a new suite of Personal Identity tokens and services, deployed, administered and managed by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). This MobileID Application is issued by the NIMC of behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and serves as a valid means of Identification anywhere a Nigerian (or legal resident) is required to present an ID Token…. This app may also serve as a replacement for a physical Polycarbonate Card, since it also [sic] a State-of-the-Art General-Multipurpose resource.”

The overview lists agencies which can interface with it, including the exams board.

It currently has a review with a one-star rating stating it does not recognise users’ NINs. The IT Edge News article reports that people are also being shown other individuals’ details when they register and that civil society organization Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative is asking a court to halt the adoption of the app.

NIMC has said that the app is not yet intended for public use.

Many Nigerians only have a slip of paper with their NIN on as they wait years for a card. Identity verification is conducted with the number and biometrics. The reduced emphasis on the card as a credential appears not to have been widely understood. For further details, see the Reports & Opinion section below.

Republic of Congo (Brazzaville): Mühlbauer’s ‘world first’ biometric tax ID card launches

The Congolese Ministry of Finance and Budget has launched the Tax ID Card system developed by German firm Mühlabauer, according to a company release.

Applicants have their biometrics taken for the chip-enabled plastic card to be securely identified as taxpayers, and the card is seen as a way to secure tax revenues. Taxpayers will receive an electronic document with their Unique Identification Number, along with a physical Tax ID Card.

The company says its MB SDM and MB ABIS software enable the detection of duplicate registration attempts and other inconsistencies. The biometric tax ID solution also enables the secure exchange of data between the Ministry of Finance and Budget’s Information Systems Department and government agencies, like tax or customs authorities, or financial institutions.

Mühlbauer also supplies the Republic of Congo’s national ID card and biometric passport.

South Africa: Digital census pilots underway

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has launched pilots for a digital but not biometric census which could go nationwide for Census 2021, reports Tech Next. Citizens can go to the online portal as field agents are unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions. A telephone option is available.

Censuses can determine central to regional government funding and constituency boundaries.

The census will not use biometric verification for citizenship, which means it may not be as accurate. Internet access will also prove problematic as it is estimated that only around 36.5 million of South Africa’s population of over 59 million are active internet users.

Ghana: President claims new voter register is the ‘most credible’ yet

President Nana Akufo-Addo has stated that the controversial new biometric electoral roll is “the most credible voter register in our history” in a national address on the COVID-19 situation, reports Modern Ghana.

De-duplication is still underway and the opposition National Democratic Congress has called for an immediate independent audit.

Reports & Opinion

Nigeria: The wait for ID

A review of Nigeria’s ID efforts by Tech Cabal tells the story of what the publication sees as NIMC’s years of mismanagement since its formation in 2007 right up to the latest news (see above) on the creation of an app, as its argument goes, as yet another way of misapplying technology rather than resolving fundamental issues within the NIMC.

Africa/Global: Use of border surveillance on own citizens

In a report for The Conversation, Keren Weitzburg introduces the issue of data-driven immigration policy and problems it creates via the examples of the UK’s Windrush scandal and the bureaucratic nightmare of Somali Kenyan’s caught up in an identity trap after registering as refugees to access food and education.

Weitzburg then explores how errors in immigration data and how it is analyzed then leads to nations surveilling and mistreating those who are entitled to be there and access services: “officials frequently privilege easily accessible digital records and biometric data over older, often more straightforward paper documents. Many Kenyans denied IDs had ample proof of citizenship, including birth certificates, letters from local chiefs attesting to their parentage and school records. In 2010, the [UK] Home Office negligently destroyed the paper landing cards of Windrush migrants, which had been used in deciding immigration cases.”

Kenya: Digital rights report released

A report commissioned by the Mzalendo Trust examines Kenya’s 2019 Data Protection Act, keeping in mind the 2010 constitutional right to privacy and referring back through decades of identity issues in the country. It analyzes the judgement on Huduma Namba and the impact of the program.

Mzalendo, a watchdog on Kenya’s parliament, has many concerns, but the report also lists some things to be optimistic about when it comes to promoting digital rights: “technology spread and increased adoption of ICT in work and social places; increased participation of private entities; litigation on digital rights; advocacy work; digital safety and digital literacy; regulatory framework and increased government support.”

The report comes right up to the present, discussing how tools brought in to fight the COVID-19 pandemic could be manipulated to become tools of surveillance.

News in Brief & Updates

In brief – Rwanda: All Rwandan passports issued before June 27, 2019 will not be valid from June 28, 2021, reports The New Times. New biometric East African Community passports are now required.

Link – Morocco: Our coverage of Morocco’s personal data protection commission approving facial recognition for verifying social security payments.

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