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Integrated Biometrics reveals its fingerprint scanners may kill COVID-19 at ID4Africa event conclusion

Marathon of Innovations shows combination of market maturity, but debates remain
Integrated Biometrics reveals its fingerprint scanners may kill COVID-19 at ID4Africa event conclusion

Certain types of fingerprint biometric devices may be essentially self-sanitizing against COVID-19, and could potentially restore public faith in contact biometrics, attendees of ID4Africa’s ‘Marathon of Innovations’ were told during the final session of Day 3.

The market supply for biometrics and digital identity technologies in Africa is characterized by diversity and choice, ID4Africa Executive Chairman Dr. Joseph Atick said in summary of the Movement’s three-day online event.

The first session of Day 3 was a set of presentations on ‘Digital ID for Travel and Population Flow Management’ moderated by Grace Nanyanzi of Uganda’s NIRA, and began with presentations by Emperor Technology and SITA.

Iris ID VP of Global Sales, Marketing and Business Development Mohammed Murad discussed the physical security requirements of airport biometrics in addition how passengers can benefit from contactless travel experiences. Murad also noted the enormous pressure on airport capacity from passenger volumes before the pandemic, and Iris ID’s partnerships with Clear and in various countries to provide iris recognition in airports.

Vision-Box Regional Sales Director Jorge Carvalho talked about the use of biometrics at African land borders, where he says fraudulent identity documents are common and processes are frequently time-consuming. He also pointed out that with the AfCFTA agreement about to take effect on January 1, 2021, border traffic is expected to further increase.

Livecast attendees asked about the security of biometric data and the development of interoperability standards, and the effectiveness of biometrics with different age groups, in which Murad claimed accuracy with children as a potential benefit of iris biometrics in cases where they must be identified with biometrics, but clarified that in Iris ID’s live deployments children can typically be identified through their parents or guardians. Nanyanzi also led a discussion on how the inclusion of the many people without smartphones or with lower levels of digital literacy can be ensured.

More than a dozen companies showcased biometric hardware and software and credentialing technologies during the final two stops on the ‘Innovation World Tour,’ including Aratek, Telpo, and Unioncommunity.

Integrated Biometrics EVP of Solutions David Gerulski delivered a keynote arguing that fingerprint biometrics, with their capability of delivering accuracy well above 99 percent, remain the best choice for delivering secure digital identity to all people across Africa.

The reliability, availability, and affordability of fingerprint biometrics are superior to other modalities, Gerulski stated, making comparisons to controversies around facial recognition, such as a case of wrongful arrest in the U.S. The technology has also become mobile even as it has declined significantly in price.

Gerulski also explained that low-level electrical fields have been proven one of the few ways of sanitizing surfaces against COVID-19. IB Chief Scientist Fred Frye has been working with researchers at the University of Missouri’s Infectious Disease Center to produce proof that the electrical field present on the bezel and platen of the company’s LES film-based sensors is safe from transmitting the virus for the same reason, he told the audience. An announcement is expected soon, once the official report is completed.

The popular ‘fishbowl’ session closed the three-day event, with Atick discussing the prevalence of smartphones, which only a minority of Africans have access to, in the presentations. Atick and APSCA Chairman Greg Pote discussing the possibility of an “Africa phone,” and the gains in access to needed services that could be made by building up smartphone ownership rates. Health informatics consultant Paul Macharia of Kenya cautioned that smartphones still draw too much power for many resource-limited settings, and rely on internet connectivity.

The community discussed power and connectivity considerations at some length, along with social credit and attestation and a “fiat” model of identity. The concept of tokens will be seen more in 2021, Atick suggests, and Professor Abderrazak Henni of Algeria’s Ministry of Justice described his country’s use of sectorial identifiers, along with a foundational identifier, which could also act as a gate on personal data.

Atick advocated for the adoption of privacy-by-design principles and architecture, but also recourse for people whose civil or privacy rights have been violated, referencing Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

He also expressed some surprise that interoperability was not addressed more often during the previous three days, saying that it seems to reflect the concept being less of a point of emphasis for industry than for the community.

Risk-based approaches to identity, as opposed to binary decision-making, could help improve inclusion by enabling people to establish an identity which may not meet the requirements for regulated sectors like financial services, but could be good enough for some essential government services, Atick and Pote emphasized.

There were many other points touched on, and prizes to be handed out. The Movement’s series of livecast webinars will resume in the new year.

Read coverage from Day 2 here.

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