Duplicative biometric databases in Nigeria, India face criticism
A database dubbed the National Education Repository and Databank (NERD) put in place to manage a student loans scheme in Nigeria has been greeted with mixed feelings. So too have criticisms rocked a similar move in the Bengal region of India where regional authorities have directed the collection of biometrics for the registration of marriages, separate from biometrics collected for the Aadhaar digital ID. Observers say these duplicative databases do not only sometimes breed inconveniences, they also present great data security risks.
Group tells Nigerian govt to link student loan database to NIN
Felix Attah Nnalue, senate president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has called for a review of the Student Loan Act to allow for ID verification of beneficiaries using their biometrics and National Identification Number (NIN).
NIN is already used for other student-related activities in Nigeria like JAMB exams registration, and it is issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
Nnalue, a social activist, said a review of the law, officially known as the Access to Higher Education Act 2023, is necessary in order to clear some of the barriers that limit the scope of beneficiaries, The Cable reports.
In June, Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu enacted the legislation which is designed to provide interest-free loans to a certain category of young Nigerians who are thirsty for tertiary education. Key points of the law are detailed in an explainer by Premium Times.
Among the requirements for eligibility is the fact that the student’s income or that of their family must be less than 500,000 Naira (US$631) per annum.
Nnalue feels this requirement is discriminatory. “We want the students’ loan to cover every category of students,” he said as quoted by The Cable. He also reiterated his support for the National Education Repository and Databank (NERD) to manage the loan scheme which, he says, should be linked to the biometrics and NIN of beneficiaries.
According to Nnalue, the NERD should be the only platform through which the loan scheme is managed since it will be the body responsible for handling all the data of potential recipients of loan payments.
Linking the NERD to the NIMC database would be consistent with the position of the government to harmonize all government databases in the country and create one central repository.
Criticism trails biometrics collection for marriage registration in Bengal
In a similar development, a recent move to collect biometrics afresh for marriage registration in the Indian region of Bengal has also faced criticism.
This has been in force since November 1, and officials say the idea is to reduce incidents of bigamy and polygamy, per India Today.
As part of the criticism, an editorial by the Times of India questions why Bengal authorities have to capture biometrics separately for that purpose, whereas there is the main Aadhaar database which has the biometrics of almost every Indian citizen.
To the outlet, it would make more sense for the authorities to use the Central Identity Data Repository of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which is already well established.
The editorial argues that creating several databases for different purposes is a good recipe for security risks, and that data encryption alone is never enough to deter data thieves.
Indians’ personal data has been exposed in several data breaches of ID information in the recent past.