The Governance Commission, a government think-tank, in collaboration with the National Identification Registry wants government ministries and agencies to collaborate in building a synchronized national ID database in support of a National Biometric Identification System for the country.
The call came following a daylong forum in Monrovia over the weekend between the two institutions on the need for a genuine policy framework toward a synchronized national biometric ID system that would not only enhance Liberia’s national ID records system, but cut down cost associated with voter’s registration in electoral processes and multi-year censuses.
The forum brought together digital technicians from government and private institutions with speakers expressing optimisms this is achievable.
Technicians pointed to challenges facing citizens regarding service delivery, problems of double dipping on payrolls, illegal migration, and other frauds resulting from impersonation and identity theft that continue to undermine efforts of government in strengthening public and private institutions in the absence of a synchronized national ID database.
According to the GC, the framework, when established, will transform Liberia’s biometric ID system to interact with government’s institutions, private sector and improve numbering system applied to citizens and residents, while saving cost on electoral expenditure, and enhance the country’s emerging digital interactions.
ID4Africa executive chairman, Dr. Joseph Atick, who delivered the keynote speech via zoom, said the pathway to improving national identification system is based on four main functions, which include strategy to involving other governmental agencies and recognizing stakeholders in a spirit of true partnership.
Dr. Atick said the ecosystem could emerge in Liberia if stakeholders representing sectors of government harmonize with the National Identification Registry and standardize the practice which will support the identification needs. However, he cautioned the government to demonstrate transparency to allow people gain trust in the process.
“The NIR maybe the custodian of national identification card but they cannot do it by itself. It is sector like Telecom, banks, social services, health, immigration and education must have point of contact with the population and clear proposition for the masses,” Dr. Atick said.He added that experience shows that trust is required not only for transparency purpose, but also commitment to respecting people privacy and data.
In brief remark, Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, said the system of identification will set the basic for security, peace-building and guarantee social services.
Madam Taylor noted that few people have criticized the call, but stressed the singular reason is for citizens to obtain the national identification card so their rights and privileges are not tempered with.
“The national identification card will create transparency and accountability to the governance system and I think it is a tool for national development and inclusion,” Vice President Howard-Taylor explained.
Earlier, the Officer-In-Charge of the Governance Commission, Madam Elizabeth W. Dorkin, described the forum as a great milestone in government’s reformation drive. She said the system remains fragmented across some public institutions and there is need to ensure link and synchronization for better usage.
“The Governance Commission believes that not only must the system be linked but that the system must be fed by other entities for greater effectiveness and efficiency,” Madam Dorkin underscored.
Also addressing the forum, the Deputy Executive Director for Technical Services at the National Identification Registry, Mr. Zeze R. Reed said the synchronizing system could allow biometric of 10 fingers.
The National Biometric Identification System (NBIS) is created as a foundational ID system that speaks to all other identification platforms. It comprises a biometric system that creates national unique identifier, a physical ID card and a verification system.It also allows for proof of existence, assurance of uniqueness and ability to trace owner.
Mr. Reed revealed that compliance by citizens and residents, including stakeholders remains a challenge to the system in getting adequate records for an estimated target of six million people.
According to him, the NBIS has capacity to register 3,500 persons per day at permanent and mobile locations but there has been challenge in achieving this target.