Improving Human Security in Nigeria towards Digital Transformation using Biometrics

For decades, a criminal investigation has significantly leveraged fingerprint technology to trace suspects based on evidence left at the crime scene. Much progress has been recorded with fingerprint technology, away from solely relying on visual observation. Computers are helping to speed up the verification process: the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), now applied to compare traces found at a crime scene with millions of stored fingerprint images in just a few seconds in many countries. Although it is not only criminal investigators who use such technology, many commercial access-control systems use identification systems based on biometrics—the automated recognition of individuals by using behavioural and/or biological characteristics.

Nigeria, like all nations of the world, is today faced with the future of biometrics. While it is yet to fully embrace the new technology, it has made significant inroads.

Biometrics Tech. And its adoption in Nigeria:

The biometric recognition process involves the acquisition, feature extraction and comparison. Biometric characteristics are acquired through measurements. A sensor, such as a camera, microphone or fingerprint scanner, captures the specific characteristics of a subject and creates a digital representation, thus defined as the biometric sample: a photograph, a voice recording or a scanned fingerprint, an External file that holds a picture, illustration and all other details about the human being, falls under this tech.

The regulatory requirements necessitated by rising cybercrimes and terrorism (along with elicit financing of terror and human trafficking activities) are placing a demand on the application of digitally-enabled biometric technologies. However, since Nigeria has yet to have a unified and consolidated national identity system, much of the task of improving human security in the face of the daunting challenges of cyber-attacks, human trafficking and terrorism has shifted to private sector players in relevant sectors to human security.

For the financial services industry, for instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2013 mandated financial institutions to comply with a Three-Tier Know Your Customer (KYC) regulation.  From merely requiring banks and other financial institutions to provide the means of identification of customers, several financial institutions (especially FinTechs) now require fingerprints and facial recognition for new customers to be fully onboarded. 

Similarly, the new national ID cards (International Passport, Voter’s Card, National Identity Card, National Driver’s License) as envisaged with the encapsulation of the National Identity Number (NIN) by Nigeria’s Federal Government (FG) under the new data policy will not only make it easier to track all Nigerians; it would make for more secure travel documents—such as the ePass—it will also support new applications that are based on electronic signatures. This new technology will significantly support border controls to secure access into and out of the country. 

Although, in the nearest future, a fully integrated national identity management system becomes inevitable.

What the future holds:

In the United States (US) for instance, anyone who has recently travelled there is familiar with the procedure: at US border control, the prints of both index fingers are taken, as is a digital portrait photo. This additional security measure is used not only to combat terrorism but also to monitor residence permits. From the perspective of its operators, it has been a success. After its implementation in 2004, it took only a few months of operation for the system to spot several hundred travellers who wanted to enter the USA while being on a watch list.

In Europe, a  more sophisticated and promising approach is three-dimensional (3D) face recognition—now a popular research area in academic and industrial laboratories, as it offers far greater reliability (Chang et al., 2005). Compared with a 2D image, a 3D model can be used to identify a person much more easily, even if the head is tilted or if the camera is not perfectly aligned with the subject. 

In conclusion: 

Biometrics authentication reduces the risk of information (passwords) or tokens (keys or chip cards) being stolen or passed on to unauthorized people, intentionally or unintentionally. It is also user-friendly, as customers no longer need to remember a personal identification number or carry cards or documents. In the future, biometric systems for both identification and verification will evolve. In addition to the ICAO recommendations, a wide range of non-government applications will exist. Biometric systems will enable access to secure or sensitive areas, such as energy supply facilities, nuclear power stations or emergency service control centres. Furthermore, a digital citizen card also opens up new opportunities for logical access controls, for example, in e-government, e-banking or e-business. Public demand for these applications may be the driving force behind further progress in biometrics.

Dooyum Naadzenga


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