Nigeria launches new biometric ID card - brought to you by Mastercard

Nigeria launches new biometric ID card - brought to you by Mastercard

Summary: 13 million person pilot of national identity card combines both biometric verification for state services and a prepayment wallet aimed at bringing financial services to the poorest.

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TOPICS: Security
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Yesterday afternoon, president Goodluck Jonathan became the first recipient of Nigeria's new national eID card, in a ceremony at the presidential villa in the capital Abuja. The cards will be issued to 13 million Nigerians as part of a pilot project, with the ultimate aim of producing a national identity management system (NIMS).

Nigeria's NIMS is an ambitious attempt to consolidate data from different government agencies, including birth and death records, health insurance, tax information, and driver licensing in a country with a population of 168.2 million people.

The director general of the commission which will implement NIMS, Chris 'E Onyemenam, said at the launch that the card will eventually be used for border control as well.

"There are many use cases for the card, including the potential to use it as an international travel document," Onyemenam said. "NIMC is focused on inclusive citizenship, more effective governance, and the creation of a cashless economy, all of which will stimulate economic growth, investment and trade."

The new cards carry two photographs of the holder, and a chip storing an individual's biometric information including 10 fingerprints and an iris scan using a system developed by Cryptovision.

Nigeria first attempted to introduce identity cards 10 years ago and, as well as modernising the service delivery and improving bureaucracy, the government is now keen to throw off its international reputation as a hotbed of fraud dating back to the many email-based '419 scams' that originated from the country.

Nigeria now boasts the largest economy on the African continent and its growth as a business centre is now making headlines in the business press.

Corruption remains a major issue in Nigeria, however, and has been credited by Transparency International as being the root cause of the rise of the terror organisation Boko Haram.

Civil liberties NGO Privacy International, which has raised concerns about misuse of surveillance data in Nigeria in the past — including the arrest of four journalists last year — said that the ambition of the data integration is worrying.

"Centralising and combining government databases makes it easy to link together pieces of information about an individual and build a near complete picture of someone’s life," said the organisation’s legal officer, Anna Crowe.

"This type of capability is extremely invasive. The crucial issue is to put in place safeguards that guarantee fundamental principles of data protection are being respected, such as only using data for the purposes for which it was collected. This is extremely challenging for any country, let alone one that already faces significant challenges around corruption and ensuring respect for human rights."

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the cards, however, is that they combine a civil national identity scheme with a strongly commercial initiative. The new cards won't just operate as proof of identity for citizens — they also function as payment cards backed by the local Access Bank and carry the Mastercard logo on the back.

"National ID schemes can prove problematic in many respects, but commercialisation of such a scheme raises additional, and serious, questions," Crowe said. "What does Mastercard and the bank's involvement entail? Will data be shared for commercial gain? How can Nigerians be confident that their right to privacy is being upheld?

"When you register to vote you are doing so for a specific purpose — to be able exercise your rights — not to see your information handed on to a private company without your consent or knowledge."

If the new cards work according to plan, Nigerians will be able to use them to deposit funds, pay for government services and access pensions, but also to buy goods or withdraw cash from EMV-equipped ATMs and payment points. Mastercard's business head for West Africa, Omoke Ojumuyide, said that it will be used to offer financial services for the presently 'unbanked' and help establish credit ratings for the poor.

"The objective is that every Nigerian bank will eventually be involved," Ojumuyide said. "The focus is not to create unfair competitive advantage."

The cards use Mastercard's pre-payment systems and can be topped up remotely using mobile payments. Ojumuyide said that this will be used for delivering social security and that the government is looking at ways to deliver benefits such as hydrocarbon subsidies — which are currently paid directly to fuel distributors — directly as cashless payments to citizens.

Right now, Ojumuyide said, the primary aim is to establish how a mixed use card will work during the pilot program, and long term agreements haven't yet been signed. The different applications on the card will be fully siloed, she said, in order to allay privacy concerns.

"Mastercard does not handle the biometric data," she said. "We are strictly confined to the payment technology on the chip."

Read more on Africa

Topic: Security

Adam Oxford

About Adam Oxford

Adam Oxford is the editor-in-chief of htxt.co.za, a South African tech blog that covers issues from around the country and the continent beyond. Based in Johannesburg but originally from the UK, he's written for most of the major technology publishers over the last 17 years, covering everything from PC gaming to photography to Linux to open data and emerging tech markets.

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9 comments
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  • Fantastic!

    So now we will have a way to verify all of those requests for wire transfers of money...or notifications of heretofore unknown riches left to us by long lost relatives...coming from Nigeria?

    I feel SO much better now knowing the world is more secure thanks to these new ID cards.
    IT_Fella
    • not as seem

      Like every other ID cards thats what we want. We have to rise up and protest against this. The hidden a gender in this are 1. The slave masters will get your info that will lead to the end time 666. Bc they have your info you can't escape from the marks or it means death. 2. The slave master ;the banking system, will control your money how much you spend and where and what you spend it on bc in this last days they are coming against the churches and they will stop you giving to help the gospel and if you insist, they will freeze your account. Why do you think we are going cashless society? So you dont have cash you dont give account of and they can easily control your money for you and there by is no longer your own bc they will let you use the way they want. It sound good and safe(cashless society) but not all that glitter is not gold. 3. They will get your taxes even if you want it on not. 4. Time comes when you don't need passport to travel but the card with chips on it and they determine when and where you travel. Why do you think they generated EBOLA? To restrict Africans coming more to them. Many flight have been canciled and many embassy will not give visa. Many more things I wouldn't say not to put you in fear of what is and now and here after will happen. Please lets raise up and stand against this. Do not fear death. By the way what will you lose if you die have you thought about it and what will you gain if you die. There is a better place waiting for us. I better die as a hero and go to heaven rather than a salve to this world and yet not sure of heaven. Am not afraid to die how about you?
      Nnamdikral
  • NWO on the march...

    This is the "bar code on the forehead". Stand up for your independence and freedom, people!!!
    Techboy_z
    • not as seem

      Like every other ID cards thats what we want. We have to rise up and protest against this. The hidden a gender in this are 1. The slave masters will get your info that will lead to the end time 666. Bc they have your info you can't escape from the marks or it means death. 2. The slave master ;the banking system, will control your money how much you spend and where and what you spend it on bc in this last days they are coming against the churches and they will stop you giving to help the gospel and if you insist, they will freeze your account. Why do you think we are going cashless society? So you dont have cash you dont give account of and they can easily control your money for you and there by is no longer your own bc they will let you use the way they want. It sound good and safe(cashless society) but not all that glitter is not gold. 3. They will get your taxes even if you want it on not. 4. Time comes when you don't need passport to travel but the card with chips on it and they determine when and where you travel. Why do you think they generated EBOLA? To restrict Africans coming more to them. Many flight have been canciled and many embassy will not give visa. Many more things I wouldn't say not to put you in fear of what is and now and here after will happen. Please lets raise up and stand against this. Do not fear death. By the way what will you lose if you die have you thought about it and what will you gain if you die. There is a better place waiting for us. I better die as a hero and go to heaven rather than a salve to this world and yet not sure of heaven. Am not afraid to die how about you?
      Nnamdikral
  • "bar code on the forehead"

    Easier to slap a label "Return to nation of origin" for the millions of cases of illegal immigrants.

    My feelings:

    Sometimes the medicine needed to cure your ailment doesn't always taste sweet, but it's the results that matter in the end.
    GotThumbs
  • The US needs something like this...

    This is the 21st century, you cannot function in modern society without properly identifying yourself.

    No one wants to round up illegals and force them in detention camps to later deport. It would be far better to simply require anyone hiring another whom they have to pay social security contributions for be required to submit a national ID and that information logged. Do stings and jail those Americans breaking the law and dry up the jobs. Same with welfare, health care, food stamps, etc.

    And if you are a typical person, the government already knows everything about you anyway. Fighting against a national ID is pointless. And its not like it would be required, just require it for jobs, air travel, etc. Want to go live in the mountains and off the grid, go for it.
    Rann Xeroxx
    • Never gonna happen...

      Right now Big Business is livin' large. They've literally got their cake and are able to eat it, too. One the one hand, they benefit from wage depression due to an easily exploitable undocumented work force, on the other hand they enjoy the benefits conferred by a Republican legislature that riles up the natives by grandstanding on supposed opposition to illegal immigration, all while doing nothing of substance to actually address the problem. Meanwhile these same congressmen are busy gutting environmental regulations and writing new corporate tax loopholes into law to benefit their largest contributors.

      Wall Street actually owns America. The rest of us just get to shine the hedge fund managers' shoes from time to time.
      dsf3g
    • not as seems

      Like every other ID cards thats what we want. We have to rise up and protest against this. The hidden a gender in this are 1. The slave masters will get your info that will lead to the end time 666. Bc they have your info you can't escape from the marks or it means death. 2. The slave master ;the banking system, will control your money how much you spend and where and what you spend it on bc in this last days they are coming against the churches and they will stop you giving to help the gospel and if you insist, they will freeze your account. Why do you think we are going cashless society? So you dont have cash you dont give account of and they can easily control your money for you and there by is no longer your own bc they will let you use the way they want. It sound good and safe(cashless society) but not all that glitter is not gold. 3. They will get your taxes even if you want it on not. 4. Time comes when you don't need passport to travel but the card with chips on it and they determine when and where you travel. Why do you think they generated EBOLA? To restrict Africans coming more to them. Many flight have been canciled and many embassy will not give visa. Many more things I wouldn't say not to put you in fear of what is and now and here after will happen. Please lets raise up and stand against this. Do not fear death. By the way what will you lose if you die have you thought about it and what will you gain if you die. There is a better place waiting for us. I better die as a hero and go to heaven rather than a salve to this world and yet not sure of heaven. Am not afraid to die how about you?
      Nnamdikral
  • Extremely important information...

    You must see this completely factual and free video on the end of the world. It gives the full truth about the beasts of the Apocalypse, the kings, the mark of the Beast, the true identity of the Antichrist, Anti-pope Francis and how or whether he fits in with these things and much more. It will change your life. Here’s the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cn9t0m6eG4Q The website that produced this video: http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com is the only place where people will find the essential information they need to know to save their eternal souls in these difficult times. Almost all of their material is completely free to view at all times and they have an enormous amount of the most important information you’ll ever see. They are the only place telling the complete and uncompromising Christian truth as well as the complete truth on the most important secular issues of our time such as 9/11, the prison/military/industrial complex, the Federal reserve and the international usury/banking system, vaccines, medical tyranny such as the eugenics/abortion/population control agenda, natural health,etc. etc. They also have a highly informative news section that is updated frequently. In fact, its where I found the link to this article. The full collection of material they make available is the most powerful and compelling information in the whole world. Check it out.
    Nathan Barton