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Population scale ID verification in focus at ID4Africa 2023

Important role of private sector, tips for identity authorities
Population scale ID verification in focus at ID4Africa 2023
 

The various options available when it comes to identity verification at population scale for access to services, the challenges as well as the strategies for more successful implementation were all examined in one of the sessions at the ID4Africa event in Nairobi last week.

In a presentation on Day One of the 2013 AGM, the ID4Africa executive director Dr. Joseph Atick painted a panoramic picture of the identity verification situation and what identity authorities can do to build ID verification systems worth the salt.

Atick’s presentation also focused on identity verification as a digital public infrastructure, and also emphasized the importance of adopting the right enabling regulatory and legal frameworks to allow the private sector to innovate and invest in the development of other more privacy friendly platforms, such as decentralized identity verification and verifiable credentials.

“The private sector has a very important role to play in the ID verification chain. Do not move away from the possibility of working with them,” he advised.

“The rapid growth in demand for ID is leading to a point where digital identity will become indispensable, and as such, will become a public infrastructure. That’s why we are talking about identity verification and identity as a digital public infrastructure. Verification is a crucial part in the identity journey.”

Atick noted that although the identity journey in Africa has been advancing at pace over the years and as the momentum keeps building, the job is far from complete especially given the constant shifts aimed at enabling large scale identity use for cases like verification.

Credentials for ID verification

The ID4Africa movement boss delved into the various options available for identity verification, which he said, include the electronic ID (eID) which can be carried along by the user and used either for KYC or for onboarding into programs, the mobile ID (mID) where credentials can be transferred to a secure digital wallet on a smartphone, the purely digital identity where services can be delivered to holders of unique identification numbers, as well as decentralised digital ID which has to do with the attribution of a unique identification number and a virtual credential in a format which can be received or downloaded securely from a trusted government site and stored in a secure digital wallet.

For all of these options, Atick gave quick details about their functionalities, advantages and disadvantages and how they can be used for verification.

The need to bind the credential to the owner is important and increasingly, biometrics are being used to do this, said Atick, who cited selfie and face biometrics as one of the most frequently used AI-based methods to carry out ID verification for one-to-one matching.

What identity authorities need to know

Addressing identity authorities, Atick said it was important to take note of four things when it comes to building ID verification systems. For one thing, he said it is important to define the scope and know exactly what the role of government is in the identity verification process.

While it is important to offer KYC identification services, he said it is also important to enable transaction authentication by third parties which could also include private entities. “If you are the only one doing transaction authentication, you will fail because you are not going to be able to respond to all the demands,” he said before adding that they also have to keep in mind the standards for collaboration and interoperability especially for the case of digital wallets.

In all of this, the ID authorities must note that ID verification is not a standalone process as it has to integrate with other things such as data-sharing between entities, payments, and other social protection benefits, according to Atick, who also stated that “the discussion on digital ID verification cannot be complete without the need to digitize civil registration.”

Country experiences

Meanwhile, in another segment of the discussion, representatives of ID authorities in some countries shared experiences on the different options that they have adopted for their identity verification infrastructure, including the use of smart cards, NFC-reliant tokens, centralized verification, and mobile authentication, just to mention these.

The senior officials who spoke were from Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Uganda.

Prof Kenneth Attafuah, Executive Secretary, National Identification Authority (NIA), Ghana, spoke about the Ghana Card as a tool through which public and private services are delivered.  He said the process happens through a Public-Private Partnership initiative which is regulated by laws in force.

He said there is a robust platform for the biometric verification of identities of persons carrying out transactions using the Ghana Card. This, he said, happens through the generation of unique codes for purposes of governance and compliance and verification services are offered in three categories.

For the case of Morocco, the Director of the country’s eID project Mouhcine Yejjou explained how the system is used for identity verification and authentication including by digital government services, financial regulation platforms, and other private business entities. This happens in a decentralised manner where the user has control of their data and shares it when and how they want, the official said. ID verification can be done on and offline using the eID whose adoption, he said, keeps growing.

Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) of Nigeria talked about the various verification platforms which exist for verifying the NIN whose issuance in now above 100 million. He said there are approved verification sources for different uses of the ID including the NIMC mobile ID app which can be used to verify ‘Improved NIN Slips’. Aziz disclosed that they also have an enterprise management system for enterprises to enable them manage ID verification activities such as agent onboarding, credit purchases, and notifications, among other activities, as well as an enterprise mobile app which allows businesses to verify the identity of their customers. More than 330 million verifications and authentications have so far been done using the different NIMC platforms, he noted, adding that this is partly driven by the policy of mandatory use of the NIN for particular transactions.

The Pakistan story was also shared. Sheharyar Ajmal Khan, the Head of Business Development at the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), who spoke on behalf of his principal, Tarik Maliq, explained how ID verification is done in the country. For example, he said a strong real time digital KYC verification system has been rolled out and almost all public and private entities in Pakistan depend on it. He said more than one billion verification transactions have been carried out so far using the platform. The latest of NADRA’s ID verification solutions is the Nishan Pakistan which is designed for small businesses to verify their customers.

Representatives from Uganda and Indonesia also gave insights into their respective digital ID ecosystems which are at different stages of implementation.

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