The Angola National ID program – A building block of democracy

AngolaBy Rob Haslam, HID Global Government ID Solutions (May 2015)

While government agencies have not traditionally been viewed as industry innovators, the tide is changing. Government organizations at all levels are increasingly partnering with leaders in the private sector to make infrastructure investments that will take them well into the future.

Perhaps, the most obvious reason for this trend is that the government workforce of the future will be populated with digitally literate employees, lending itself to a more organizationally open government. We are seeing this model manifest in particular in developing countries where IT infrastructures are being built from the ground up. Governments, such as Angola, which is featured in this article, are building more social, mobile, accessible and information-driven environments to facilitate secure ID applications beyond basic citizen ID.

The Angola National ID Program: A historical perspective

As part of rebuilding its infrastructure following a long period of civil war, the Angolan government decided to replace its outdated national identity documents in the mid 2000’s with an ID card system that was not only counterfeit-resistant and durable, but would also provide proof of identity to its entire population of 24.3 million citizens – a daunting task given that 62% of the population lives in widely dispersed urban areas and 38% live in hard to access rural areas.

While an enormous undertaking, the ability to understand the landscape of its citizenry could propel this nation forward and truly change lives. In response, DGM Sistemas of Luanda (DGM) and HID Global partnered to deliver a world-class, custom National ID Card Program to the government of Angola. The program has expanded its overall enrollment, issuance and delivery infrastructure over the past seven years, reaching more than 6.5 million citizens and bringing with it the enhanced ability to securely travel, gain employment and open bank accounts.

The program rollout has been hugely successful. This said, it is the unexpected benefits of the new program that demonstrate the true possibilities for government-to-citizen IDs beyond traditional applications.

A world-class solution

The Angola National ID Card Program incorporates the latest innovations in secure issuance, card technology and citizen-centric services – services that take into account people’s needs and expectation for convenience, flexibility and affordability when participating in government programs.

The card

The new National ID system had to meet multiple security criteria, including:

  • Matching individuals to their biometrics
  • Safeguarding personal data
  • Storing substantial amounts of information directly on the card (fingerprint biometrics, images, birth certificates, demographic data)

Angola’s dispersed geography required the ability to instantly read the card’s data in areas where there was no access to the communications network, as well as modular and mobile data collection and card personalization systems. Delivering on these goals required the deployment of the most counterfeit-resistant document possible, with secure portable data storage, and strong visual security attributes. HID Global’s LaserCard® optical security media technology was chosen for its proven security and visual authentication features. Further, LaserCard® optical security media’s long-life span and ability to scale with the needs of the nation enables the addition of functions or applications like providing proof of – identity and access to multiple government services.

Angolan cardholders now carry IDs as advanced as those found anywhere else in the world. LaserCard® optical security media allows the cards to not only store personal and biometric identification, but prevents counterfeiting and obstructs tampering, while facilitating quick and accurate authentication of the card. The digital security of optical media-based credentials has never been compromised.

LaserCard® optical security media encoders allow individuals to have all ten fingerprints encoded, along with photos and personal information, for confident authentication in the field. HID Global supplies both the cards and hundreds of secure ID card printer/encoder systems.

Distributed issuance

The majority of Angolans live in remote, rural locations. In the first phase of the program, the new secure issuance infrastructure deployed to serve these populations included 27 centralized “fixed” centers (9 at Luanda, 2 at Benguela, and one for every other Province) for National ID Card enrollment, personalization and issuance as well as a creative cadre of mobile units (22 trucks) to enroll and issue ID cards to citizens in remote parts of the country. Today there are more than 243 fixed and mobile of issuance centers. DGM, in partnership with HID Global and the Angolan Government’s Ministry of Justice, has successfully implemented “Over the Counter” issuance processes in which citizens are securely issued their IDs in less than an hour.

Originally launched without a network communications infrastructure in place, the program has been deployed in stages – evolving along the way. DGM had to construct a country-wide information technology and network communications infrastructure at the same time that initial “fixed” centers and mobile units began to be implemented. Today the communications infrastructure is able issue new ID cards in an hour – from biometric data collection to issuance to the citizen.

Building block of democracy

Beyond the most evident improvements in national security, the Angolan National ID system is contributing to building the fabric of the nation’s economy, the legal cornerstones of identity and providing citizens with improvements to their daily lives. As the de facto identification standard for opening a bank account, employment authorization and other daily services the national ID card is not only growing in use, but is now a requirement for all Angolan citizens. The country’s focus is therefore on scaling its personalization and printing capabilities, along with greater service and support, especially in remote areas, to build up the nation’s central database and reach approximately 24M citizens. The Government is also adopting innovations to enhance the card technology, issuance processes and overall security and efficiency of the program. The LaserCard® optical security media technology originally selected for the card allows this expansion while preserving the security and integrity of the ID system. As the user base grows, LaserCard® optical security media will also allow more sophisticated 1:1 authentication to enhance the security and eliminate all possibilities for fraud or counterfeiting.

What’s next?

According to Gartner Group successful citizen eID programs require a trusted relationship between government and commercial vendors and/or partners, with a focus on business value, interoperability and user experience. We actually believe these relationships need to go one step further with entities working together to meet very specific user requirements driven by the unique demographics, geographies and democratic needs of a nation. The nation of Angola provides proof of concept for this approach.

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Categories: eID

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