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Ghana readies to capture biometric data

A Ghana government official says the country`s drive to get voters to register their biometric data will result in “fraud-free” elections in that country later this year.

The country`s electoral commission has announced it is to start carrying out a biometric voter registration exercise between 24 March and 25 May in the lead-up to the December parliamentary and presidential vote.

The African nation`s government has decided to implement the biometric system, which will capture fingerprint and facial scans of Ghanaians to clamp down on voters who commit fraud by casting their ballots twice.

Even people who attempt to register twice during the upcoming biometric voters` registration exercise will be detected and arrested, says Hubert Akumiah, director of the Information and Communication Technology Department of the Electoral Commission.

"There will be a very effective monitoring system; if you try to cheat, you will definitely be found out by the system,” Akumiah was quoted in a Ghana News Agency report.

Ghana`s Electoral Commission has said all data collected after the country`s biometric registration in May will be safe, as it has established a data recovery centre at an unknown location that serves as a backup.

However, security analysts question whether the system is 100% fool-proof and whether it is even required in a third world country such as Ghana, where corruption and mismanagement among government officials is a problem.

Craig Rosewarne, who heads up the Internet Security Group of Africa, says although Ghana`s biometric system is quite advanced, similar voting technology is already in use in other African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique. Even SA`s Department of Home Affairs and its police service capture biometric data, especially in the form of fingerprints.

While Rosewarne applauds the intentions of African governments such as Ghana to use biometric systems to try to prevent fraud in elections, he stresses that a lack of IT skills on the continent and the potential poor management of data could pose serious security risks of that information being leaked and stolen.

“I doubt that most governments in Africa have the necessary controls in place to prevent a persistent skilled attacker from compromising the system at one of its many vulnerable spots.

“You still then have the challenge of ensuring that data input and output validation is taken care of, not to mention the safe protection of data in use, in transit and in storage,” he notes.

Despite security concerns around the use of biometric data in Africa, Maeson Maherry, solutions director at security firm LawTrust, says more governments across the globe and in Africa are set to adopt capturing biometric data as they seek to reduce fraud and improve efficiency in electronic government services.

“Society can only benefit by being accurately and quickly identified for purposes of movement between countries, voting and electronic signature to reduce errors in government systems.”

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