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Digital ID for air travel is DPI that could lift Africa’s economy, HID argues

Digital ID for air travel is DPI that could lift Africa’s economy, HID argues

As the African continent experiences economic growth and increasing global integration, the potential for enhancing air travel through improved digital identification systems and digital public infrastructure (DPI) is gaining attention.

At the heart of ID4Africa 2024, which took place this week in Cape Town, South Africa, HID Global showcased technologies aimed at ushering in a secure and inclusive digital identity future.

The solutions on display at HID’s booth included Digital Travel Credentials (DTC), personalized ID issuance, identity documents featuring HID’s proprietary technologies and integrated biometric data storage, as well as citizen enrollment and identity security. For personalized digital ID issuance, HID proposes cloud-based solutions, desktop issuance printers and laser engraving technology for ID cards to integrate multiple security features that can be issued and managed remotely.

A key focus for the company at ID4Africa is the introduction of Digital Travel Credentials, or mobile passports, which promises to streamline the travel experience by enhancing security for both citizens and governments. HID recommends a hybrid approach, where physical documents are retained as a secondary verification method while a fully functional DTC ecosystem is being developed.

Natascha Trivisas, senior director of marketing communications at HID’s Citizen Identity (CID) business area, argues in an email to Biometric Update that digital travel systems are an important piece of digital public infrastructure. Trivisas says the practical implementation of digital travel credentials and other advanced identification solutions can significantly enhance air travel in Africa. These technologies not only improve security and efficiency but also enable a more inclusive approach to identity management, crucial for socio-economic development.

Trivisas notes an IATA survey suggesting that if 12 African countries opened their air markets, they could add 155,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in GDP each year. Increased air travel would also support the goals of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). DPI development could help unlock the potential of the single trade market.

Africa’s diverse and expansive geography makes interconnectivity a critical challenge. For Biometric Update’s West Africa-based reporter, Ayang Macdonald, to cover ID4Africa in South Africa, he had to travel via East Africa.

Initiatives like the African Union’s Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) aim to create a single unified air transport market across the continent. Enhanced digital systems are critical to achieving this goal, facilitating easier cross-border travel and regulatory harmonization.

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