Experts in the field of biometric identity management solutions say there is growing interest in the application of fingerprint identification systems, especially within the government sector.
“While biometric technology is used extensively in commerce in terms of access control and workforce management, the infrastructure has also been in use within government departments for years,” says Ideco Biometric Security Solutions COO Marius Coetzee.
For example, the Department of Home Affairs has used biometric technology for its National Identification System and the population register and the Department of Social Development has used such technology for the payment of grants.
“The digitisation of South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs’ paper-based fingerprint records is still the largest project of its kind in the world, involving the conversion of some 40-million paper-based fingerprint records into an electronic format, enabling biometric verification,” says Coetzee.
He notes that bio- metrics was introduced in the social grants system in 2005.
“In October 2007, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) con- ducted an enquiry into fraud, corruption and maladministration that plagued the social grants system. The SIU’s findings revealed that fingerprint-based identification had prevented R690-million from being paid out to fraudulent claimants since 2005,” he explains.
A total of 288 682 people who were illegally receiving grants were removed from the system. According to the SIU, 21 587 of those were public service personnel, he adds.
In addition to preventing crime in the government sector, fingerprint biometrics plays an important role in crime prevention in the private sector, says Coetzee.
“As an established and experienced operator in the security sector, we have been vocal in reminding the market of the impact of identity fraud and the scope of the problem in commerce. It truly costs companies and individuals a lot of money.
“One of the core messages we want to get across to the market is that biometric infrastructure is a credible, affordable and effective replacement of tradi- tional forms of identification, including cards, pins and passwords.
“Identification by biometrics is a definitive way to link an identity to whatever transaction a person is carrying out. A fingerprint cannot be forgotten, stolen or hacked like a password can. When a fingerprint is used to authorise a transaction, that evidence will stand up in court, whereas a forgotten password would not,” he says.
Meanwhile, Ideco anticipates a dramatic increase in the use of biometric technology within the financial sector over the next decade for both staff and customers.
“We expect biometric identity management systems to eventually replace traditional forms of identification, such as cards, pins and passwords, in the financial sector within the foreseeable future,” says Coetzee.