Gabon’s national biometric identification initiative

GabonBy Stefane Mouille, Gemalto (Oct 2012)

With a population of 1.5 million, the Gabonese republic is among the more prosperous nations of Sub-Saharan Africa. The government has devised the “Emerging Gabon” development strategy to face future challenges. The strategy aims to transform Gabon into a more developed country by 2025, diversifying the economy through industrial development, expansion of the services sector and green growth.

Building the new foundation of Gabonese citizenship

Within the framework of this ambitious development, the Ministry of the Interior has made digital civil registry, improved electoral register accuracy and enhanced-security ID documents key priorities. These projects are seen as a matter of sovereignty and national security for the Gabonese republic and a new foundation for Gabonese citizenship. Achieving these goals will allow the country to pave the way for digital development in line with the three-year “Digital Gabon” plan, which forms part of the Emerging Gabon strategy.

Key challenges

Gabon’s Ministry of the Interior has launched a biometric identification program in coordination with Agence Nationale des Infrastructures Numériques et des Fréquences (ANINF) known as Identification Biométrique Officielle au Gabon, or IBOGA. It aims to build a reliable national biometric civil registry to replace paper identification with electronic documents and generate a secure electoral register ahead of the local 2013 elections. The biometric database will serve as a master registry to issue all citizen ID, including birth certificates, national identity cards, passports and driver’s licenses. Tamper-proof biometric authentication will be instrumental to preventing fraud.

First major implementation slated for 2013 elections

Discussions of the introduction of biometrics into the electoral system in Gabon date back to 2005. Mindful of his commitment to the principles of good governance, President Ali Bongo Ondimba held two meetings with political leaders in April and May 2011. The political leadership agreed on the need to introduce biometrics into the electoral system, broadening the scope to all forms of citizen identification. The 2013 local elections will be the first illustration of this initiative.

The solution

Following an invitation to tender launched in December 2011, the Ministry of the Interior turned to Gemalto’s extensive experience in citizen enrollment and issuance for deployment of a comprehensive solution encompassing Coesys biometric citizen enrollment and eID document issuance solutions.

The Gemalto end-to-end solution comprises Coesys desktop and mobile enrollment stations pre-installed with software to capture citizens’ demographic data, fingerprints and digital photographs. The solution features an Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) linked to the registry fingerprint. Its matching capability guarantees the uniqueness of each entry.

Gemalto is also providing its issuance solution to enable the Gabonese government to personalize future official documents. Law enforcement officials will be equipped with Coesys Mobile eVerification terminals to check documents and verify identities in the field. Full training services, technical assistance and maintenance are also being provided. To maintain a local presence throughout the project, Gemalto additionally opened an office in Gabon in 2011

Benefits

Prior to the launch of IBOGA, citizen identification in Gabon was paper-based and prone to fraud. The government’s new, secure electronic national registry and tamper-proof biometric identification will play a decisive role ensuring better governance and administrative efficiency.

Ease of issuance for officials

Deployment of enrollment equipment and a register management system will take place nationwide at dedicated centers, with on-site management in maternity wards to improve the rate of birth registration.

Flexibility for citizen end-users

Because not all citizens require the same travel and ID documents, issuance will be need-based, from birth certificates to national identity cards, resident cards, passports and voting cards.

A more secure guarantee of voter identity

The new electronic voter list will form a basis of identification through the establishment of a secure master registry, with a single, unique identification number for each citizen.

Modernization in line with Digital Gabon

True to the government’s vision of building a foundation for eGovernment services, a national center will be established to consolidate electronic records and oversee issuance of secure new identity documents meeting international standards.

A foundation for future eGovernment applications

Simultaneous set-up of a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) will establish a trusted backbone for integration of the national biometric ID program into future eGovernment services.

Return on investment for government spending

Use of a single, unique identification number to issue all citizen ID reduces costs by eliminating redundant or unnecessary processes. The solution’s biometric authentication will also save national resources by preventing the abuse of government benefits programs.

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Categories: Identification

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