What will it take for Africa to drive US$5-trillion digital economy?

Africa's digital
opportunity

Continent's progress
under the spotlight.


Sunday, Nov 17th

NEC XON's Saunders will discuss the 'perfect storm' brewing at ID4Africa

Grahame Saunders will speak at ID4Africa about how advances in biometrics and mobility have changed the identification opportunities for more than a billion Africans.

Grahame Saunders head of Identity management at NEC XON.

Saunders heads up NEC XON's identity management portfolio.

"ID4Africa is a movement that supports implementing free birth registrations and formal identification for every African by 2030, which is one of the goals of the UN's Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) initiative," he says.

ID4Africa, hosted by South Africa's Department of Home Affairs, will run from June 18 to 20, 2019 at the Emperor's Palace Convention Centre close to OR Tambo International Airport.

"There is huge interest, and enormous need, for this type of technology in Africa and worldwide. People need a single biometric identity that is maintained from birth until death. At the moment people receive a national identity as teenagers, when they turn 15 or 16 depending on which country they are in. This does not fully satisfy government's needs to deliver services and it further exposes people to identity theft, among other issues," says Saunders, "which often results in imbalanced services delivery, marginalisation, and exploitation."

This type of solution is now made possible because of what Saunders calls a "perfect storm" in the field. Biometric identities have suffered from numerous challenges in the past. They required expensive and fairly immobile technology solutions to create, maintain and use. They were not as accurate as they are today. They could not process the enormous volumes of data that they can today. And they required connectivity that just wasn't as widely available as it is today.

"The biometric solutions today are far more powerful than ever before. They can process billions of records in near real time. They are mobile because the attachments are much cheaper and more powerful, which enables them to capture and verify fingerprints, faces, irises, and other biometrics. In addition, wireless networks provide connectivity in far more areas of Africa than ever before. Where there is no connectivity the solutions are powerful enough that they can store the data in the devices until a connection is established," he says.

Even though the technology is much more accessible to governments and other agencies Saunders says that NEC XON often collaborates in public-private partnerships and helps customers monetise the systems to improve their return on investment (ROI).

They also include solutions such as the mother-child healthcare pilot project NEC is undertaking in conjunction with the University of Nagasaki and the Kenya Central Institute of Medicine in Kwale County, until March 2020.

The pilot project seeks to research and develop human resources using ICT, including biometrics, to solve health problems in developing countries.

"One of the fundamentals of success in this field, which handles millions of peoples' private data, is safety and security," says Saunders. "Government agencies and other organisations need to be assured that their technology infrastructure and service providers have the necessary track record, skills, and experience to reasonably guarantee data safety and integrity."

Saunders will speak on the second day of the ID4Africa event, June 19, from 11:30am to 13:00pm.

NEC XON will showcase national ID systems with registration devices specifically focused on mobility demonstrating the fingerprint, iris, and photo biometric capabilities. Those will be collected, together with demographic information, and transmitted over wireless backend systems to a database where the data is verified as unique.

In addition to large-scale ID systems used to identify citizens, NEC produces, implements and maintains law enforcement systems that many law enforcement agencies use globally to identify suspected criminals, through advanced algorithms matching crime scene latent fingerprints against the previously convicted.

All NEC biometric identification algorithms are verified for efficacy through independent tests performed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the US, the results of which are made public. NEC's algorithms have maintained top performance in these tests through the years, which is a testament to NEC's biometrics R&D.

The company will also demonstrate its real time facial recognition platform, called NeoFace Watch, that identifies people from specific watch lists and is in use at various government facilities worldwide, including airports, sensitive infrastructure, and other environments. This technology complies with GDPR.

This year's ID4Africa event has registered as many as 10% of the 1 500 delegates from private industry, 8% from academia, 5% from development agencies, 34% from international industry, and by far the greatest chunk, 43% from African governments. Delegates hail from 95 countries, 50 of them African.

ALSO ON ITWEB AFRICA