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Optimism for universal identity abounds as ID4Africa 2018 concludes

Author: huifan   Time: 2018-04-29

ID4Africa biometric exhibition

ID4Africa 2018 wrapped up Thursday in Abuja, Nigeria, with a series of plenary sessions, providing a series of reasons for optimism that the organizations goal of realizing UN sustainable development goal 16.9 to provide legal identity for all by 2030 will be realized on the continent.

In the first plenary session, a series of disruptive technologies were discussed.

“High security credential requirements are not stable throughout life,” Dr. Jean Salomon, Strategic Business Development Director for SCPA SA said. “They have spikes at birth, when you get a passport, a drivers’ license, at marriage, a second passport, and at death.” He noted that there are different ways of enabling digital identity for every spike.

Blockchain, and its potential for several applications, such as mobile voting, was discussed. Two presenters presented different versions of software enabling biometric authentication and verification based on software and standard, non-smartphone mobile devices. If those visions are realized, it would disrupt the biometric and broader identity industries, though ID4Africa Executive Chairman Dr. Joseph Atick expressed skepticism, pending further data.

Data Manager for Kenya’s Ministry of Health Paul Macharia reported on infant enrollment tests in his country, reporting that good results were obtained from the footprints of newborns, but the same subjects at 9 to 12 months old were too excited to cooperate adequately to capture high quality biometric information. He expressed satisfaction that new biometric technologies provide instant feedback and scores on the quality of data captured, and credited the support of Qualcomm and Integrated Biometrics for supporting the research. Dr. Atick followed this with an official appeal from ID4Africa for help from the identity community to advance biometric technology and processes for infant registration.

Another plenary session presented the results of ID4Africa’s annual survey of African identity stakeholders. The announcement of Johannesburg as the host city for ID4Africa 2019 followed.

A series of “Rapid Fire” summaries of the informational sessions were presented next. Among the insights shared from the previous day, the commitment of political leaders at the continental, national, and regional levels to create and leverage foundational identity platforms to enable service delivery was recognized, as well as the mandate that gives to administrators to carry out it out. The value of the examples provided by identity projects in India and Estonia were reiterated, as were recommendations including the dedication of resources to gathering data, and of harmonizing identity systems with a single source, in line with the event’s theme of “Harmonization of Identity schemes.”

An impassioned discussion was held during the “Fishbowl” plenary session, with a debate about improving democratic processes with the establishment of strong identity dominating at times.

The petition launched on Day 1 of ID4Africa 2018 to make September 16 officially recognized as International Identity Day reached 1560 signatures over its first three days, indicating both the higher than originally anticipated turnout for the fast-growing event, and the unanimous support of the African identity community for the idea. An informal poll of conference attendees from various stakeholder groups conducted by Biometric Update found that while awareness is widely not considered the only “next step” in the process of establishing universal legal identity, it is recognized by all those at ID4Africa 2018 as important to the advancement of the process towards the ultimate goal of realizing UN sustainable development goal 16.9.

Wrapping up the three-day event, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Director General Aliyu Aziz commended the ID4Africa movement, and expressed his optimism in the identity for development prospects of Nigeria, and Africa as a whole.

“In the next several years, we can register everyone (in Nigeria),” he said. “And at that point, we will not have any excuses not to use it for any service the government needs.”
Biometric Update’s coverage as ID4Africa 2018 Official Journalist will continue with in-depth articles on some of the advances in technology and identity projects providing hope for universal identity throughout Africa.