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South Africa plans biometric database integration to boost digital ID for service delivery

Governments recognize huge economic potential of digital identity schemes
South Africa plans biometric database integration to boost digital ID for service delivery

South Africa’s government has approved the Official Identity Management Policy, which would integrate the national population register with the biometric National Identity System, BusinessTech reports.

The policy includes several proposed changes to the Identification Act, as well as the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act, and is now up for public comment. The changes would bring the legislation into line with South Africa’s Constitution and Protection of Personal Information Act.

Executive Minister Jackson Mthembu said the change would provide a comprehensive view of the person which can be used to interface with government and private sector identity management systems, and provide the basis for a government digital identity system for public and private services.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor said last year that South Africa would establish a new digital ID system to “re-engineer and automate” many key processes. The system is expected to include records of various events throughout each resident’s life, including birth, marriage and death, asylum and refugee applications, and records of who has entered and left the country.

Sri Lanka approves national digital ID project

Cabinet Minsters in Sri Lanka’s government have approved the implantation of a Unitary Digital Identity framework, which would include the launch of a national digital identity card, ColomboPage reports.

The framework was prepared by the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and the Department of Registration of Persons, and a Presidential Task Force will be established to assist with its implementation.

The project is due to be finalized by the end of calendar 2022.

Nigeria approves Ministerial budget

A budget of N39.3 billion (US$103 million) has been approved for Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, which the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was folded into in August.

Vanguard writes that Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Dr. Isa Pantami said the ICT sector had contributed 17.83 percent of the country’s GDP in Q2 2020. The Ministry hopes to achieve 70 percent broadband coverage in the country by 2025, support the implementation of the digital identity program.

Addressing questions about the increase in the Ministry’s budget, Pantami said, “Regarding 2021 budget proposal, the variation and why the amount is higher than the previous year, it’s to accommodate the proposal of NIMC, that’s the major variation there, their budget now is part of our own and if you add their salary it’s over N5 billion and I think that could be the reason.”

An editorial in the Jamaica Observer suggests the island nation can take lessons from Rwanda’s Irembo e-service portal for public services.

The Irembo portal was launched in 2014, and enables citizens to collect documents and access a total of 96 services.

The government of Jamaica has launched a digital public services portal for critical services, and the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology is mandated to increase the country’s digital transformation.

Thales executive on Saudi digital ID

Saudi Arabia’s national digital ID system, including smart cards embedded with biometrics which are valid for 10 years, could be used for a wide variety of applications beyond their current uses, which already include Gulf region travel credentials.

The cards contain a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) application for digital signatures, and could hold emergency health information, Thales Saudi Arabia CEO Pascal Lesaulnier told Arab News as an example.

“In the future, the e-ID card can see credentials saved in a cloud tied with a mobile wallet, where all service cards such as a driver license, vehicle registration and banking cards can also be featured, as well as verified and authenticated in the most secure way possible,” Lesaulnier says.

Idemia President for Middle East and Africa Richard Mikhael writes for Channel Post MEA, meanwhile, that with studies showing only 17 percent of the digital potential of countries in the Middle East being utilized, digital ID could be transformative for people in the region.

Arab countries could increase their GDP from $2.6 trillion to $4.15 trillion by 2030 through digital transformation. Only half had begun digitizing their foundational ID systems as of 2019, however.

Lessons from digital ID successes

The potential value of interoperability in government ID schemes was examined in a recent Global Government Forum webinar.

Idemia Senior Vice President for Digital ID Pierre Lelievre was joined by experts from the German, Estonian, Singaporean and Norwegian governments shared their success stories, and discussed how digital ID can overcome system fragmentation. Because the biometrics and smartphones currently underpin digital ID systems, common standards can enable the companies that use those technologies to offer services across borders.

The successes of the above countries include 40 percent of Estonians voting with digital identity in the country’s last parliamentary elections, and the use of bank IDs by 92 percent of Norwegians to access 2,000 services from 100 public providers.

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