Biometrics for economic development

Kenya: Biometric Exercise Boosts Kenya Adolescent Girls (All Africa)

Implemented by Save the Children, the exercise uses easy-to-use and inexpensive equipment to read students’ fingerprints to record daily attendance.

The biometric information is then used to identify those students who meet the conditional threshold of 80 percent school attendance and, therefore, qualify for a cash transfer twice a term.

The cash transfer goes to their household head, whose biometric details have also been captured and linked to a bank account to facilitate electronic household cash transfers.

Many families in the developing world face difficult decisions about whether to invest in a child’s education (even if it’s “free”) or to maximize the family’s current earnings by putting children to work. Programs like the one described above have made a difference in the lives of millions in Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia and backing up the cash transfers with a biometric audit trail should help insure that available funds are used efficiently.

Biometrics for the financial “last mile”

Kenya: Biometric technology eases banking in rural areas (KBC) — Kenyans in rural areas can now open and get access to their bank accounts with ease following the roll out of a biometric technology…

Somalis panic as cash flow dries up after US remittance lifeline cut

Somalia’s remittance crisis has been intensifying for years. Britain’s Barclays Bank closed its accounts with Dahabshiil, the largest Somali money transfer company, in 2014.

In Australia, Westpac, the only bank partnering with Somali remittance companies, is due to close their accounts at the end of March, the report said.

“We are just lurching from crisis to crisis”, said Ed Pomfret, Oxfam’s Somalia campaign manager. “These governments need to take action.”

Britain has been working with the World Bank on a “Safer Corridor” initiative to tighten the scrutiny of Somali money transfers through measures such as biometric identity cards for recipients in Somalia.

The “last mile” problem is usually reserved for describing the challenges of connecting retail customers with physical infrastructures such as plumbing, electricity or wired communications.

It’s also a real challenge in connecting recipients of aid and remittances to the global financial system. In the Somali case above, the global financial system appears to end at Somali money transfer companies. The Kenya efforts (linked above) and others, such as India’s UID project, are two examples of how people are using biometrics to extend the benefits of the global financial system to people who desperately need them.

Kenya government time-and-attendance

Biometric registration of public servants kicks off (Standard Digital News)

The Transition Authority has assured public servants that the Capacity Assessment and Rationalisation of Public Service exercise under the national and county governments would not lead to retrenchment.

Speaking yesterday when the exercise kicked off in Nakuru County, TA Commissioner Simon Pkiyach said the exercise would facilitate the transformation of public service for efficient service delivery.

Kenya seeks biometric citizen register

KENYA: State to register all citizens in digital database

The Government will register all Kenyans in a national digital database as a measure of addressing security challenges and arrest cases of fake identification documents. Deputy President William Ruto said the move will see a consolidation of all current registers of persons and development of a common database, which will bear biometric details of all those registered.

This will help the Government to address security issues and enhance planning. The database will contain biometric details of all persons, land, establishments and assets. The registration will start in three months. The database will capture new births registration.

There are some interesting details in the story and some important details are missing. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Kenya botches biometric election

The consensus view seems to be that Kenya really dropped the ball on integrating biometrics into its voter ID process. The few following examples should provide sufficient illustration, especially the item from the Turkish Weekly where a member of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission acknowledges  the failure of the biometric system.

Then the biometric identification kits started to crash. (NPR)
“Then we have to look at why our biometric voter identification system did not work…” (Turkish Weekly)
“The Biometric Voter Registration also failed.” (All Africa)

A partially dissenting view is here: Kenya polls: A Ugandan eye-witness’ account.

Who could have seen that coming? Well, anyone who paid attention to the procurement process, that’s who.

For review see:
JULY 17, 2012 – Kenya: Procurement for Biometric Voter System Gets Messy
AUGUST 9, 2012 – Strange Things Afoot in Kenya Biometric Voter Registration Procurement
AUGUST 31, 2012 – Kenya Biometric Election Registration Update

It became clear last summer that little would be allowed to stand in the way of spending large sums of money: not laws governing the timing of voter registration and elections; not stated procurement processes; not offers of free equipment; and not the technical and organizational inability to execute on election day.

The bad news is it looks like that ordinary Kenyans, who deserve better, didn’t get much for the money borrowed from Canada. Inevitably, some will use the occasion to discredit biometric voter ID in elections in general. That would be unfortunate, too.

The good news is that, at least so far, there has been no replay of the violence that took place following the last Kenyan national elections in 2007. We hope that continues to be true.

Africa: Other biometric elections

KENYA: IEBC Briefs Kibaki on Poll Preparedness (All Africa).
Training electoral workers and informing the public is a HUGE part of the challenge of implementing biometric elections. It’s also one of the most expensive parts ‵ more expensive than the technology, I’d say, even in places with low labor costs.

CAMEROON: Keeping the veil on women’s electoral participation (News Day)
“Allowing women to get national identity cards could also be potentially upsetting for men who want absolute control over their wives.” We’ve made the point here over and over that a legitimate ID is a prerequisite to full participation in the modern world. It seems our point of view is widely shared.

SIERRA LEONE: 2012 Election: A test democracy (In Depth Africa)
The election will be the first since the end of the 11-year war in 2002 to be conducted entirely by the Sierra Leone government. The country’s 2.6 million voters were registered for the first time on a biometric system to prevent multiple voting and avoid electoral fraud. The Guardian (UK) also has a useful article on the stakes in Saturday’s Sierra Leone election.

Kenya Elections: Many reasons for worry

The whole sad saga dating to September of last year is here.

Today’s news doesn’t inspire optimism that Kenya can deploy a successful biometric voter registration system (which, without voter verification, is really only half of a biometric election system anyway) by March.

The Biometric Voter Registration Kits are late.

Anxiety is also increasing due to several other factors that are well covered in Fear grows over delays in voter registration at the Kenya Standard.

That fear has grown to the point where public officials are publicly beginning to wonder whether there isn’t some conspiracy afoot that aims to delay elections. Placed against the historical backdrop of Kenya’s electoral experience — only three presidents since 1964, and many hundreds killed following the last presidential elections in 2007 — it’s no wonder Kenyans are starting to worry.

Correctly deployed and well managed biometric voting technology can be extremely helpful in bringing rigor and transparency to electoral systems at a cost that less developed countries can afford. Through careful planning and wise investments in technology, countries can build an affordable and rigorous ID infrastructure that strengthens democracy, which in turn opens the door to other benefits.

The systems themselves are technically complex but there are plenty of organizations like SecurLinx that can supply the technical expertise to implement them. The technical complexities, however, make up only a fraction of the overall bureaucratic load of running a decent election.

The logistical and human resources challenges are far larger and more expensive to address than the technical challenges of biometric systems.

Like we always say… Biometrics & ID management: it’s about people.

UPDATE: 
Kenya: Justice Minister Eugene Says Treasury Was Poll ‘Saboteur’ (All Africa)

Yesterday Prime Minister Raila Odinga chaired a crisis meeting at his office to resolve the delay in the procurement of the Biometric Voter Registration kits with the IEBC top officials, Finance minister Njeru Githae, Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa, Lands minister James Orengo and Treasury PS Joseph Kinyua among others.

However President Kibaki missed the meeting for a second time. On Tuesday Wamalwa accused “some people” of attempting to sabotage preparations for the polls.

“There was an anxiety and finger pointing that had started creeping in. The culprits I had in mind were actually the Treasury,” said Wamalwa who had promised to name the saboteurs.

Kenya Biometric Elections: A long way to go and a short time to get there.

Here’s the latest on Kenya’s efforts to build a biometric voter registration database by March.

Polls agency accuses AG of blocking cash for vote kit (Daily Nation)

Attorney-General Githu Muigai was on Sunday accused of holding up preparations for the election by refusing to authorise payment to a French company.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission said the registration of voters, which is two months behind schedule, remains in limbo until the AG gives Treasury the go-ahead to issues letters of credit (LC).

Until he does so, Biometric Voter Registration equipment cannot be delivered and no date can be set for the registration to begin.

Read the whole thing. Kenya has a long way to go and a short time to get there.

Kenya: High Court judge rejects Biometric Voter Registration Kit procurement complaint

Kenya: Activist Fails to Stop Voter Registration Kit (All Africa)

For the second time in less than two weeks, a High Court judge has declined to stop the procurement of Biometric Voter Registration Kit meant for March 2013 general election. Judge David Majanja refused to give temporary order sought by activist Okoiti Omtatah and businessman Shailesh Kumar Nataverbhai.

The two sought to stop the supply of BVR kits on grounds that the procurement process does not meet the requirements under the constitution. Omtatah said the procurement process was neither fair nor competitive and as a result the court should stop the contract.

We’ve followed the developments in Kenya with great interest.

See:
Strange Things Afoot in Kenya Biometric Voter Registration Procurement and
Kenya Biometric Voter Tender: Curiouser & Curiouser

Or, better yet, click the ‘Kenya’ label in this post’s footer and get caught up all at once.

Kenya: Government signs contract for Canadian BVR’s

Canadian firm to supply Kenya with voting kits (Xinhua)

The Kenyan government has finally signed a contract with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), for the supply of 15,000 Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits to enable the East African nation hold credible polls in 2013.

A statement from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said on Tuesday the contract was inked on Monday evening in Nairobi by Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua, CCC’s Director David Olsen and IEBC’s Chief Executive Officer James Oswago.

“The Canadian agency gave a written undertaking on the integrity and commercial standing of the firm,” IEBC said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

Click here for the whole strange saga of the Kenya biometric voter register tender.

Kenya Inks Canadian Loan for Biometric Kits

Kenya: Govt Signs Deal With Canada for BVR Kits (All Africa)

The government yesterday signed a loan agreement with its Canadian counterpart for the Biometric Voter Registration kits. Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa confirmed that the Cabinet sub-committee yesterday met the Canadians to sign the memorandum of understanding.

The committee has been negotiating with the Canadians over the Sh4.6 billion deal.

The loan carries no interest but the Canadians get to pick the biometric voter registration (BVR) kit vendor.

Kenya Biometric Election Registration Update

The Kenya biometric voter initiative is still lurching along…

The big update is that there will be an update.

Kenya: State to Give Voter Kit Update, Says Eugene (The Star – Nairobi via All Africa)

Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa said the update will be made after a stakeholders’ meeting to be held before the end of this week.

He said the tender was expected to be complete “soon as possible” to enable the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission start voter registration in readiness for the next year’s general election. This statement is expected before Friday.

“I can comment about which company will be given the award since its the Canadian who will determine the winner of the tender,” said Wamalwa. Canadian firm, Code Inc, which was involved in the pilot BVR project of 18 constituencies in Kenya before the 2010 referendum is also among those said to be considered for the tender.

I think he means he “can’t comment.” It’s the only way the rest of the sentence makes sense.

See also: Strange Things Afoot in Kenya Biometric Voter Registration Procurement, which ends with this summary chronology…

1. IEBC solicits proposals

2. IEBC narrows list to four providers

3. For whatever reason, IEBC can’t choose among them.

4. IEBC cancels the project foreclosing any recourse to the bidders who followed the IEBC’s instructions.

5. Hilary Clinton offers Kenya free biometric registration kits.

6. IEBC rejects the offer citing (unstated) political implications that would have arisen from such a donation, and a lack of time to complete the process.

7. IEBC makes a request of the Cabinet to acquire biometric registration kits through a government to government arrangement (Ghana, perhaps. UPDATE: It turns out to be Canada).

8. Laws will be changed to ensure that there’s enough time.

9. Vendors scratch heads.

10. Still, nobody is sure where the kits will come from.

Since then, Kenya has received a KES 5.4B interest free loan from Canadian government.

4,600,000,000.00 KES
=
54,534,677.93 USD
1 KES = 0.0118554 USD
1 USD = 84.3500 KES

The government of Kenya has outsourced all decision making about the procurement to the Canadians, the political implications in point 6 above apparently mitigated.

Kenya Biometric Voter Tender: Curiouser & Curiouser

Kenya: Treasury Set to Announce Poll Kit Tender (All Africa)

Treasury is today expected to announce the name of the company that will provide the Biometric Voter Registration kits at a cost of more than Sh3 billion.

I was tempted to quote the next two paragraphs, too, but then I wanted to grab the next two, etc., with no end in site. So, just go read the whole thing. It’s worth it.

To set the scene for the article linked above or for a refresher, read Strange Things Afoot in Kenya Biometric Voter Registration Procurement.

Kenya BVR: Enrollment kits are the easy part

Kenya’s flirtation with electoral biometrics has been in the news a lot lately. That fact has been reflected in the content and analysis hear at the SecurLinx blog (click here).

An often overlooked aspect of large biometric deployments is how small a piece of the overall solution biometric hardware is. The following article does as good a job as any I’ve seen adding context and detail.

BVR Is Unworkable; Its Use In 2013 Will Just Be A Disaster (The Star)

The debate on the Biometric Voter Registration has taken an unfortunate and impractical twist due to misinformation by politicians and the usual busybodies in Kenya. For the Executive and political class to insist that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission must implement BVR six months to elections is to invite disaster.

The issue around BVR at this point is not just about procurement. The main problem around BVR is implementation. BVR is not just a briefcase with sophisticated equipment. It is an integrated information system that comprises hardware, software, data, processes and people. Procurement will only deal with hardware. The devil is in implementing the software and ensuring the information system unlocks the promised benefits. Unfortunately, our politicians have hyped the benefits and created expectations of unrealistic dimensions.

Strange Things Afoot in Kenya Biometric Voter Registration Procurement

Following a flurry of activity that included overtures from U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the idea of renting registration kits from Ghana, and an electoral commission reluctant or unable to pick a bid, Kenya seems to be heading toward biometric voter registration for the elections scheduled for March 2013.

In order to move the project forward, two adjustments to the ordinary electoral process have been made.

The law mandating that the electoral register be completed 90 days prior to an election will be changed to allow the electoral commission an extra 45 days to complete its work. (Nairobi Star via All Africa)

The Cabinet yesterday accepted a request by the IEBC to acquire the biometric voter registration kits through a government to government arrangement. The Elections Act will also be amended to allow for the voter register to close 45 days to the polling date of March 4,2013 instead of the stipulated 90 days. These are among the decisions that were made during a meeting held between President Kibaki and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to resolve the crisis surrounding the procurement of the BVR kits which would have seen Kenyans revert to the manual voter registration system.

The amendment in the Elections Act will give the IEBC time to complete voter registration and allow scrutiny of the same and still keep within the elections time table it had drawn up. “The Government agreed to initiate amendments with the Elections Act to reduce the period for closure of the register from 90 days to 45 days so as to allow more time for voter registration,” a statement issued after the meeting read.

The stated procurement process has been thrown out the window. (Capital FM via All Africa)

MPs want Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Eugene Wamalwa to explain the criteria used by the Cabinet to select a Canadian firm to supply Biometric Voter Registration kits ahead of next year’s general election.

Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale said the move amounted to the government taking over the procurement of the BVR kits from the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission.

The commission cancelled the tender for the supply of 9,750 BVR kits on Wednesday following immense public outcry on the manner the tender had been awarded. In announcing the cancellation, the commission said the two lowest bidders did not meet the due diligence requirements while the other two firms who met the due diligence including Symphony Limited, were above budget.

The company, which was second-placed in the tender bid, said it had fallen victim to “unknown intrigues.”

The Indian firm 4G Identity Solutions which had bid the lowest said it would respect the decision by the IEBC to cancel the tender. However, the firm appealed to the commission to rethink the cancellation since it would negatively impact them.

The Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2005 allows the IEBC to terminate the process before it awards the contract. In such case, the bidders cannot seek court intervention.

Apart from 4G and Symphony of Kenya, other companies shortlisted for the tender were Face Technologies of South Africa and Ontrack Innovations of Israel.

For a summary chronology:

1. IEBC solicits proposals

2. IEBC narrows list to four providers

3. For whatever reason, IEBC can’t choose among them.

4. IEBC cancels the project foreclosing any recourse to the bidders who followed the IEBC’s instructions.

5. Hilary Clinton offers Kenya free biometric registration kits.

6. IEBC rejects the offer citing (unstated) political implications that would have arisen from such a donation, and a lack of time to complete the process.

7. IEBC makes a request of the Cabinet to acquire biometric registration kits through a government to government arrangement (Ghana, perhaps).

8. Laws will be changed to ensure that there’s enough time.

9. Vendors scratch heads.

10. Still, nobody is sure where the kits will come from.

That’s kind of a mess.

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