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NIRA explains adding iris biometrics to Uganda ID

Will enable IDs for the 1M citizens without readable fingerprints
NIRA explains adding iris biometrics to Uganda ID

Uganda is making iris biometrics part of its new national digital ID card not just as an added layer of security but also as an alternative for people who do not have fingerprints that can be matched.

This is the information disclosed recently by the Executive Director of the National Identification and Registration Authority of Uganda (NIRA), Rosemary Kisembo, during a parliamentary briefing.

Kisembo was responding to questions from the Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises on issues concerning NIRA in the 2022/2023 report of the Auditor General, as reported by the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC).

NIRA had announced its intention to add iris biometrics to the national ID card, produced in partnership with Veridos, early this year.

According to Kisembo, face and iris biometrics will be collected from persons who have lost their vital fingerprint features either due to ageing, injury, permanent disabilities, or other physical conditions that make the capture of one’s fingerprints difficult or impossible. This was part of her response to a question on why verification machines have been unable to recognize the fingerprints of some people. She mentioned that about one million fingerprint records in the registry are no longer recognizable.

During the hearing, lawmakers sought explanation on why just about half of the 15 billion Ugandan shillings (US$4 million) expected as non-tax revenue from NIRA in the 2022/2023 fiscal year was collected. Kisembo said this is due to delays in starting off the mass registration and renewal process for the national ID which from which UGX7.9 billion ($2.1 million) was projected to be raised.

NIRA put off a plan to commence mass enrollment for the national ID in June, and it now not clear when exactly the exercise will begin.

“We are three months behind projections for mass enrollment. We were supposed to begin the process on June 1. We hope to start by the end of July or beginning of August. We had several [reasons for] delays and one of them was [lack of] money,” Kisembo told the lawmakers.

Lawmakers acknowledged in February that a funding shortfall could delay the project.

Other issues raised by the Committee members during the hearing included lack of clarity on the procumbent process for equipment to conduct alien registration, difficulties and delays in the issuance of national ID cards, fraud in the acquisition of ID cards which often leads to foreigners obtaining Uganda passports, and the low quality of material used to print ID cards.

Kisembo also took the opportunity to remind lawmakers that NIRA remains headquartered at a facility owned by the Ministry of Defence. The agency has requested offices of its own for the last four years, but the request has been “an unfunded priority” each year, she said, according to New Vision.

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