Home affairs eyes speedy rollout of biometric ID system

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The Department of Home Affairs wants to speed up the rollout of its automated biometric identification system (ABIS) to circumvent issues of identity theft and duplication of identity documents (IDs).

This is according to the home affairs ministry’s acting director-general, Thulani Mavuso, speaking to 702's Joanne Joseph this week.

The ABIS system was first announced last year, with former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba saying the introduction of the new digital identification system is part of the department’s modernisation plans.

At the time, Gigaba indicated implementation will be a phased approach, over a five-year period.

Briefing Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in March, department officials revealed they planned to have the system go live in May.

The ABIS system is part of the department’s move towards a digital national identity system. It is set to replace the Home Affairs National Identity System (Hanis). Unlike Hanis, which is manually operated and outdated, ABIS is expected to run as a critical service without interruptions.

Hanis will run in parallel with ABIS and will be decommissioned once the new system is in full production around March 2021.

The modern IT system will integrate with other relevant systems, inside and outside home affairs, to allow for a holistic view of the status of clients.

Furthermore, it is expected to serve as a single source for biometric authentication of citizens and non-citizens across state institutions and private sector entities, and provide additional biometric modalities, such as iris scan, palm prints, facial recognition and infant footprints.

The department revealed it partnered with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to develop specifications for a new biometric database. It also worked with the State IT Agency to procure ABIS, and EOH was contracted to deliver the project.

“We always talk about the need for us to increase use of biometrics…the automated biometrics identification system is going to be able to connect most of the commercial institutions,” Mavuso told the 702 host. “We created a commercial interface, and are already working with the banks, whereby they are able to use your fingerprints and the system pulls out a photo to confirm you are the same person.”

Mavuso emphasises the department also wants to bring other commercial companies on board in order to reduce incidents of identity theft, or where people commit similar crimes.

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