More European biometric banking

NETHERLANDS: ING launches voice-recognition banking app (Computer Weekly)

Dutch banking group ING Netherlands has launched a banking application that can be navigated using voice recognition.

The firm hopes future generations of the app will use biometric voice recognition for user authentication to replace PINs.

Keeping in mind the difference between voice recognition and speech recognition, biometric ID management technologies sure seem to be gatting a lot of traction in the banking sector. This appears to be the case especially in Europe where banking security already far exceeds what you typically see in the United States as chip on card technology for bank cards has been standard in Europe for a long while now.

Perhaps it’s about time the United States gets in on the leap-frogging game. An interesting fact in this case is that a Dutch bank is implementing banking security two generations more advanced than US banks use and they’re doing it with voice recognition technology developed in the United States.

More on African leap-frogging with biometrics

Using biometrics to secure African identities (HumanIPO)

African nation states are leaping the technology divide with the rapid deployment of electronic identification systems to register their entire populations. The possession of a bonafide identity document is foundational to the creation of civil society. It enables citizens to exercise fully their rights as members of society: their right to vote in an electoral system that is fraud and error free; provide access to health insurance coverage, apart from other valuable legal documents, and lastly restore the bond of trust between these citizens and their governments.

Leap-frogging in Nigeria

Here’s another example of biometrics being used to leap-frog the technologies and methods other countries have used in the past to build an ID infrastructure. Even if the Nigerian government had the resources to attempt a paper-heavy, labor-intensive duplication of the systems some countries built in the early twentieth century, it isn’t at all clear that it could produce a better outcome than cheaper biometrics.

NIGERIA: Banks to Start Biometric Customer Registration on Friday (Daily Times)

“There will be teething problems, but we will learn from it. The biometric initiative is being pursued by the Bankers’ Committee,” the Access Bank boss said.

The Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Mr. Ugochukwu Okoroafor, said the biometric system, when fully operational, would help to improve credit in the economy and boost the nation’s macro- economy.

Okoroafor said, “Nigeria runs on cash; there is no identity. We don’t know who is who. We are now going into identity confirmation. We can now create a credit system that will power our economy.

“Banks don’t want to lend because of identity issue. We want to move Nigeria from cash system to credit system that has identity.”

US & EU to help Nigeria with fingerprint biometrics in counter-terrorism effort

Insecurity: US, EU renew support for Nigeria (The Nation)

“We have figure prints of possible over 10 million travellers at the same time in a system. We are expanding in Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso and we are doing a major upgrade in Ghana. We are possessing about 10 thousand finger prints per week in West Africa.”

When reporters sought to know what the US stood to gain in the partnership, Moro responded that the assistance was at no cost to the country but an extension of a hand of fellowship from a caring ally.

Other members of the delegation are: Mr. Dwight Brown, Miss Theresa Keens, Mr. David Svendsen, Mary Johnson, Thaddaeus Hoyt and Diana Kohn, who are programmes personnel at the US Embassy.

The European Union also renewed its continued support to the Federal Government “until terrorism is defeated”. Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Dr David MacRae, dropped the hint at a media luncheon hosted by the commission in Abuja.

This news article from yesterday provides important context.

Nigeria: Boko Haram Threat Chokes Trade With Cameroon (All Africa)

Cameroon has stepped up security over the Boko Haram (BH) threat.

In November 2011, Nigeria shut its border with Cameroon, prompting Yaoundé to bolster security in the largely Muslim Far North Region, close dozens of Koranic schools and hand over suspected BH members to Nigeria, which reopened the border in 2012.

Despite the intensified security, suspected BH militants on 19 February abducted seven French tourists, including four children, from a national park in the Far North Region, freeing them two months later.

Cross-border trade sustains the local economy in the Far North Region which sells onions, rice, maize, livestock and other agricultural goods to Nigeria, and imports sugar, cement, textile and electronics.

“Tight border security and checks are making business impossible for some of us. This was worsened by the kidnapping of [the French] tourists. Today all the goods must be checked before entry, and taxes are so high,” said Doudou Yaouba, a trader in Maroua, the regional capital.

This last, detailed, article illuminates major concerns within ECOWAS and among other interested parties. Biometrics can be a leap-frogging technology for providing domestic services, as in India’s UID project. They can also be a leap-frogging technology for bringing less rigorous international security protocols into a standard operating environment where highly sophisticated capabilities can be brought to bear.

Three Sides of the Same Coin

Late last week, while engaging in my routine news perusal, I came across a few items that while very different, struck me as being somehow connected:

Getting a facial (BCS.org – UK)

Reversing Poor Data Management Culture (This Day Live – Nigeria)

Coriander, son of Pulao, Aadhaar No 499118665246 (DNA India)

In order, they are: a high-level interview with a computer scientist interested in quantifying the behavior of the human face at both the macro and micro levels; a litany of failures to even bring order to — much less make the most of — a developing country’s IT investments; and a high-profile case of how one individual can make an entire national effort look bad.

But this summary is, well, more summary: They are a visionary’s perspective, a cat-herder’s lament, and an embarrassing insubordination.


Each piece captures a slice of the dramatic interaction of humans and IT-based technologies (in these cases, biometrics and biostatistics) designed to identify people or interpret their physical state.

Together they inform some of the themes I’m always banging on about here. “ID management is about people.” “It’s not the tech, it’s the people.” “Technology is an management tool, but it can’t run an organization by itself.” “ID management systems are an amazing leap-frogging technology for the developing world.” “ID perfection is not the proper metric, Return on Investment (ROI) is.”

A closer examination of each article follows in…
A Visionary’s Perspective,
The Cat-Herder’s Lament – IT and Organizational Culture and
An Embarrassing Insubordination – It Takes a Human To Give Coriander an ID

Nigeria Continues to Develop its ID Infrastructure.

A State that desires to deliver the benefits to society that all modern people have come to require of it*, will find things vastly simpler with an effective ID infrastructure. Biometrics are a cheap and effective way of building that infrastructure and are a true leap-frogging technology.

Here’s another indication that Nigeria is taking advantage of biometrics as to build a modern identity infrastructure. This article is about the banking and finance sector, an important piece of the development puzzle to be sure.

Bank Customers to Face Biometric Verification (This Day)

According to the CBN, the activities and processes of customers’ due diligence that financial institutions must perform to identify their customers, among others, remain key to the development of the financial system.

It also regretted that: “Verification of customers’ identity has been very difficult in Nigeria because the identity environment is fraught with adverse and disparate types of identity systems, all running in silos and having no link, integration or standardisation nor a centralised identity database for verifying the identity of bank customers.

“The absence of a central standardised identity database, and the relevant infrastructure to support access to this database, for the verification and authentication of identity, have had a constraining effect on the country’s growth and development, effective credit administration, effective administration of most government services and collation of accurate data and statistics that could be leveraged on to drive effective planning, both in the public and private sectors.”

The extremely frank and technical discussion at the end of the article — what it all means, why Nigeria is where it is, the costs of the status quo, and the opportunities do be derived from a more effective ID management environment — is really good stuff. You don’t see it laid out like that too often in the mainstream press.

*National defense, basic education, vaccination programs, enforceable private contracts, well regulated public utilities, etc. Basically, it’s just really hard for the government to do anything well if it doesn’t know who anybody (perhaps everybody?) is.

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