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Nigerian group suggests digital ID procurement needs more protection

Government urged to define legal framework for digital tech system bidding

digital identity biometric registration

The Public and Private Development Center (PPDC) — a civil society organization that monitors government procurements in Nigeria — says its research underlines the need for Nigeria’s federal government to define a clear legal framework to govern the procurement and deployment of Digital Technology Systems (DTSs), like those used in its national digital ID scheme.

ACIR Nigeria reports that the PPDC made the call recently during a session to validate its ‘Country Report on Government Procurement of Digital Technology Systems in Nigeria.’

The organization said because no such legal framework exists, Nigerian citizens do not have a full understanding of how their government acquires and deploys systems such as artificial intelligence, facial recognition and digital identity solutions.

As a result of the lack of such legislation, companies have made DTS procurements in the past, sometimes with utter disregard for provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007 – the law that governs all public procurement of goods, works and services by the federal government and other public agencies. This, the organization said, could lead to corruption.

Such a law would not only create an atmosphere of transparency, but will help build the confidence of citizens in such digital systems some of which are being used by security agencies as well as other institutions, according to PPDC.

Nneka Odenigbo, Researcher and Program Officer at PPDC was quoted by ICIR as saying the lack of this kind of law in place could hinder government interventions with DTS in the case of a pandemic.

She added that the findings of the study they carried out show lack of government transparency in investment and procurement moves regarding DTSs, as most of the time, civil society organizations which are supposed to be present during opening of contract bids are ignored.

Odenigbo added that the harmonization of all digital identity databases in Nigeria under the NIN evokes the need for the creation of a new identification management body that will be in charge of collecting and regulating personal data, in order to check illegal or unauthorized access to national digital ID data.

The harmonization also includes SIM registration, but only about a quarter of Nigerians have secured the biometric digital ID so far.

Ifeoma Onyebuchi, PPDC Program Director, also spoke during the Abuja event, and suggested that the law they want put in place should categorize DTSs under ‘classified’ and ‘non-classified,’ with ordinary citizens allowed to have information on the procurement of non-classified DTSs.

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