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Digital ID status update for Nigeria and Rwanda: new technology, data law

Gender, age and location breakdown for Nigeria registrations
Digital ID status update for Nigeria and Rwanda: new technology, data law

The livecast for International ID Day 2021 included the first country presentations in ID4Africa’s new I-On-Africa series. The directors general of the national digital identity schemes for Nigeria and Rwanda provided updates on their progress, while the CEO of a private identity verification firm in Nigeria has called for deeper collaboration among identity organizations to improve trust.

Nigeria: contactless, tokenization, gender divide, data law and excited staff

A presentation by Nigeria’s National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Director General Aliyu Aziz and contributions from Hadiza Ali-Dagabana, the commission’s general manager of the Legal and Regulatory Commission, reveal greater detail on who has (and who has not) enrolled for the National Identification Number (NIN), a host of new technologies for the system, a possible date for the country’s data legislation and the possibility that the money earmarked for state-of-the-art equipment for the agency has gone to staff as wage perks.

The director general reports that 63 million Nigerians have now biometrically enrolled for the NIN. The requirement to have a NIN to apply for a passport and to register a SIM, exam registration, “harmonization” with the Banking Verification Number (BVN) and the requirement for internally displaced persons have helped push people into enrolling, as have the creation of more enrolment centers.

Aziz said that the passport requirement urged “all the most important people we have” to enroll, and now the agency is pursuing an “ecosystem approach” including the private sector.

There are now more than 8,000 centers nationwide, compared to an initial plan of 4,000. The centers are concentrated in areas of higher population density such as Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt. “Like a drop in the ocean,” remarked Aziz who says they are expecting to need more than 20,000 centers.

Figures show starkly different enrolment rates for different age categories. The category with the highest enrollment rate is the 25- to 39-year-olds at 72 percent. At the other end of the spectrum at 3 percent are the 5- to 14-year-olds and just 0.9 percent for the under-fives. The figures provided show that Nigerians under the age of 15 number more than 86 million of a population around 206 million.

Aziz says the NIMC is planning to visit schools and hospitals to enroll more children and new born babies in collaboration with the Population Committee. They also hope to do more home visits to increase registrations among older Nigerians.

A gender breakdown revealed a fascinating insight into enrollment. Apart from the two age groups spanning 5- to 19-year-olds where females made up slightly more than half of those enrolled, in every other age group the majority were male. For the over 60s, men make up between 60 and 65 percent. Aziz shared a map of Nigeria showing the male to female enrollment ratio. It shows a trend of more equal male and female enrollment in the densely-populated south and a skew to majority male enrollment in the north.

Aziz promised “aggressive enrollment” for females.

Other factors improving the country’s digital ID rollout according to Aziz are the intelligent NIN slips (pieces of paper with a holder’s key information, NIN in full and QR code, criticized for revealing too much personal information), and developments with telcos to enable data streaming at high speed for bulk verification.

Airtel Nigeria has entered a strategic partnership with NIMC, reports The Eagle, in an effort to boost  the campaign to persuade people to enroll.

Paper slips are still be produced as production of plastic cards appears to have stopped and replaced by virtual ID, yet some people still demand something physical. “In Africa you want people to move to the digital platform,” Aziz told the livecast audience, adding the target was still full enrollment within two to three years for the World Bank-funded ID scheme.

“Even when we’ve registered everyone, that’s when real identity management begins.”

New features, new legislation

NIMC’s Hadiza Ali-Dagabana shared details on today’s celebrations, including the launch of an ID Day Magazine, a new and improved version of the mobile ID app, a mobile wallet for financial transactions using digital ID, a contactless biometric enrollment solution and tokenization of the NIN when shared electronically.

The app allows the user to download the new intelligent NIN slips, which is cheaper for the government. Awards will be given to top-performing private-sector partners and NGOs for helping to register people for NINs.

The NIN scheme and new developments currently exist in a country with no data protection law, but this seems to be about to change.

“The Data Protection Bill has reached a very advanced stage but is still a work in progress,” said Dagabana. The final leg of the exercise will take place on September 23 when the committee meets to review the document being “fine-tuned” by a consultant. Dubbed “NDPR”, the “document is not passing through the regular National Assembly processes – it is going to be an Executive Bill,” said Dagabana. Once approved as a document, it will then be presented to the National Assembly which awaits it and it should be approved there by the end of 2021.

Dagabana also mentioned that NIMC staff are “excited and ready to go with the project” after a “long-awaited condition of service and salary scale” was approved. The agency previously reported a need to increase pay is it has been losing workers to other organizations at home and abroad.

Nigeria’s VerifyMe calls for greater collaboration for digital identity effort

Esigie Aguele, co-founder and CEO of digital identity verification and KYC firm VerifyMe Nigeria has used the occasion of International ID Day to call for deep collaboration among industry stakeholders to build trust in the adoption of digital systems in Nigeria, reports Vanguard.

“Critical to success in the sector is the deepening of collaborations among ecosystem players, especially in public-private partnerships, to drive a robust national identity coverage as well as enable a trust economy that will facilitate national planning and economic growth,” the Vanguard quotes Aguele as saying.

“The criticality of having a comprehensive identity system is underscored by the reality that every segment of the population outside the net automatically translates to exclusion from citizen rights and protections under the law, exclusion from social welfare and other services and inability to transact in an increasingly digital economy. All these combine to further disenfranchise historically excluded populations.”

Rwanda: progress, upcoming protection and hopes for continental interoperability

The Director General for Rwanda’s National Identity Agency (NIDA), Josephine Mukesha, led a presentation on updates on the country’s progress and aspirations.

At over 12.1 million registered persons, the civil registry now covers the vast majority of the population. The fact that more than 90 percent of births happen in healthcare facilities prompted NIDA to decentralize birth registration and take it to hospitals. Over 90 percent of the population is now

Those aged 16 and over can obtain their national ID. Mobile units roamed the country enrolling people but with COVID this has been paused. Yet 180 enrollment centers nationwide allow anyone to go in and register their biometrics when they turn 16. It should be noted that Rwanda has one of the youngest populations in the world and the average age is 19. There are plans for implementing biometrics for social protection scheme on the under-16s.

Rwanda received funding from the Africa Development Bank for the implementation of a single digital ID based on the linking of the civil registry, Population Register and existing national ID. This will be a departure from the ID card and will allow banking, online transactions and trusted data transfers. Unlike in other countries, the agency is not charging other agencies or the private sector to access the database for verification purposes. NIDA is hoping that the Rwandan ID will achieve interoperability with other ID systems across the continent.

The next phase for digital ID should mean there is no requirement for people to travel to government agencies and instead should be able to access services remotely with their ID verified online.

Data protection legislation is almost ready, according to the NIDA team. It is approved but still waiting to be officially gazetted once it is translated across Kinyarwanda, English, French and Swahili. Its implementation will then be overseen by the National Cybersecurity Agency.

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