Botswana ID cards take on a new face

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Botswana is the first SADC country to successfully introduce identification cards with AFIS (Automatic Fingerprint Identification Systems) with the assistance of Face Technologies, a leading provider of turnkey systems and business solutions in identification technologies, security and access control.

Face Technologies, working with a local Botswana company Card Security Technology, was awarded the contract to produce new identification cards for Botswana and to design the government`s New Omang System for Botswana`s national identification register.

Prior to installing the new system, Botswana produced its identification cards manually which was costly, time consuming and lacked security features.

Mr Lash Mothlatlhedi, Computer Manager of the Botswana Computer Bureau, which centrally controls all government IT, says the new system went live in July last year. At the time the Department of Labour and Home Affairs was faced with a backlog of 200 000 ID cards with new applications coming in daily as a result of the Botswana National elections.

"We have managed to turn the situation around completely and have not only cleared the backlog, but have in all completed over 450 000 ID cards to date."

Serfies Serfontein, Face Technologies general manager says: "Face Technologies was awarded the tender after previous attempts by another vendor to deliver the system had failed. The card design and production had already been completed and Face Technologies had to make use of the existing stock and other consumables."

Face Technologies was also responsible for supplying all the hardware and incorporating the card details into the new Omang system. The AFIS software was supplied by French company, Sagem.

He says the main advantages of the system are the high levels of security afforded and the speed at which the process takes place.

The fully computerised process is quick and easy. The application form is submitted to the National Registration office, where it is checked prior to being captured. Once captured, the data is stored on a central database. The photograph and thumbprint of the applicant is scanned at high resolution and then send to and verified by the AFIS. An identification number is allocated and the card is send to the bureau for printing and lamination.

"It must then pass through quality control, where it is swiped for visual inspection. Thus the data is captured twice and if incorrect can be rectified immediately.

"The card contains the photograph, thumbprint, signature and personal details of the holder. In-built security features include watermarks and a serial number.

"While, the average turnaround time is 24 hours, a card can be processed in as little as two hours if the need arises."

Face Technologies has also introduced audit locks which can record the history of all the applications enabling the system to trace information quickly and easily.

Mr Serfontein says: "Botswana now has a highly sophisticated and secure system for ID registration and card printing. But, at the same time, the system is user friendly and has taken into account the client`s unique requirements.

He says a key aspect of all the work which Face Technologies undertakes is skills transfer and training, not only with the client but also with its local partners. Card Security Technology employed a team of people to undertake maintenance of the system and they are now fully trained with the necessary skills.

Mr Mothlatlhedi says: "Together with Face Technologies, we have solved our problems for the foreseeable future.

"It is one of the most successful projects ever undertaken especially considering the short time frame and the considerable pressure all parties were under to deliver.

"Face Technologies project managed the entire process and put everything into making the project a success and ensuring that it all went off very smoothly. Considering the extremely sophisticated and complex technology involved, this achievement is even more remarkable and the technical staff are to be commended."

He says a further advantage of the new system is that the Botswana Computer Bureau now also has in place an extensive database which is an extremely valuable resource and could be linked to payment systems and passport production systems.

Face Technologies, a business unit of Ariel Technologies, has extensive experience and expertise in the design, implementation and development of not only ID systems but also drivers licences and other security and access control systems.

Other major success stories include the South African and Zambian drivers licences, temporary Voter`s Cards for the South African 1994 elections, the Lesotho Elections (1998), the Free State Pension Payment system, Botswana National ID Card and AFIS and ID cards for the South African, Ugandan and Botswana police.

Face Technologies also has the distinction of being the first company to successfully implement large scale biometrics solutions - the technology which enables fingerprint identification, facial recognition or iris scanning - in South Africa and has achieved phenomenal growth in this area.

Face Technologies is also not restricted with regards to card technology and can provide a range of card products, from laminated paper cards to PVC and other state-of-the-art materials, including smart cards.

With world class technology at its fingertips and excellent track record it intends to further increase its foothold in Africa and believes it could also achieve success further afield.

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