Biometric Citizen Enrollment & Identification Delivers Efficiency Gains
Governments around the world are turning to fingerprint biometrics as they upgrade or establish civil registration and identification programs to reap a wide range of benefits.
Many countries currently include fingerprints in their civil registration programs, like Namibia. While the country has considered adding other biometric modalities to its civil registry, the use of fingerprints has also led the Namibian government to consider reducing the age of eligibility for registration.
Other civil ID programs like mobile driver’s licenses and passports can also incorporate fingerprint biometrics to authenticate the identity of the bearer.
The technology requirements for civil ID programs are largely determined by the scale of the application. Running a country-wide program that enrolls or provides an ID to many or all citizens in a country means meeting the challenges of high-scale deployments. These challenges typically include scalability, portability, ease of use and total cost. Civil registration projects typically include the entire adult population of the country or jurisdiction, giving it the highest scale of any use case. This, in turn, determines the requirements of the technology.
Why Biometrics Underpin Civil ID
The adoption of biometrics in civil ID programs is driven by the technology’s capacity to ensure that each person is registered only once, and the ability to use the data collected during enrollment can prove the person is who they claim to be in future interactions.
Governments around the world, and particularly in countries with developing economies, frequently discover when they employ biometric de-duplication, comparing each person’s record with every other record, that they have duplicate registrations. These can be intentional, carried out to set up fraud attempts, or more likely unintentional, as when a person’s name is written differently or a follow-up registration exercise is misunderstood as a new one.
Gaining an accurate picture of the country’s population helps governments manage and plan for public services.
At the same time, those public services can be delivered through biometrics. The use of biometrics as a factor in identity authentication ensures the right individual receives the service or benefit to which they are entitled.
Biometric Identification at Scale
Fingerprints are chosen more often than other modalities due to a range of benefits that align neatly with civil ID:
- Ease of Use. Population-scale biometric enrollment campaigns depend on public cooperation for their success. That means building a reputation for an easy process. Fingerprint biometrics can be a frictionless form of security that is easy and seamless to use — simply with the press of a finger for enrollment, authentication and identification.
- Affordability. Fingerprint scanners are more cost-effective than many other biometric devices, and are typically used with standard mobile devices or laptop computers. This means government employees may be able to use computers they already have with peripheral biometric scanners to carry out enrollments, and the same scanners can often be used for subsequent authentications, further improving cost efficiency.
- Portability. The equipment must also be portable enough to be deployed in the field, and in many cases as part of a mobile enrollment kit. That means having a biometric scanner that is durable enough to survive rough handling and challenging environments. This characteristic is reflected in IP (or “ingress protection”) rating, established by the International Electrotechnical Commission.
- Interoperability. The biometric scanners and database must be fully integrated not just with each other, but also the overall civil registry or ID system. ISO/IEC 19794 and 39794 are well established as standards for interoperability, ensuring a consistent data format for fingerprint biometric templates. Additionally, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations not only provides a standard for fingerprint image quality to support one-to-many matching operations, but also certifies devices as meeting that standard. Products certified to the FBI’s Appendix F standard can be found on a regularly updated list from the agency. Selecting biometric scanners that meet these standards provides assurance they will work with the other parts of the system, including templates previously collected on other compliant scanners.
Real World Use Cases
Poland chose fingerprint biometrics when it established a new national ID to comply with EU rules requiring that ID cards used for passage between member nations include biometrics. The government was able to deploy biometric scanners in 2,000 locations across the country and ready them for registration in 40 days.
The civil ID system and fingerprint biometrics are also used as a basis for benefits distribution in Poland. The country is dealing with an influx of refugees, and the same system rolled out to satisfy regional travel rules has ensured efficient delivery of the PESEL ID card that serves as a work and residence permit, and provides access to education, medical and social services.
The use of fingerprint biometrics for these social programs allows beneficiaries to easily and accurately authenticate themselves each time they access one of these services.
Similarly, fingerprint biometrics are used for Aadhaar authentication when people in India receive public benefits. The biometric public benefits system is estimated to save India $3 billion in fraud-related costs annually.
Argentina’s Banco Supervielle is using fingerprints to distribute pensions to eligible recipients. Fingerprints were brought in to replace a non-biometric authentication system that had been brought in to reduce fraud, but at the expense of putting elderly Argentinians through an arduous process every time they picked up their pension.
As these and many other examples make clear, countries around the world are already benefiting from the use of fingerprint biometrics in their citizen identification programs. They are using civil registries cleared of duplicates with affordable and accurate processes to plan more precisely and deliver services more efficiently. Fingerprints deliver those benefits at scale with relative ease, avoiding the challenges accompanying other biometric modalities.
- Explore how fingerprint biometrics can benefit government ID programs.
- Read this eBook, A Definitive Guide to Fingerprint Technology, to get an overview of common fingerprint technologies available today and how to select the right one for your requirements and use cases.
- Learn more about HID’s comprehensive biometric offerings.