Investment in biometric-based technology to better protect resources is on the rise. 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.
Marius Coetzee, chief operations officer of Ideco Biometric Security Solutions, says whilst 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.
As examples Coetzee refers to forensic police work, the Department of Home Affairs and its Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS) and the population register, as well as the Department of Social Development 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 to an electronic format, enabling biometric verification in the department,” says Coetzee.
According to Coetzee in 2005 biometrics was introduced in the social grant system.
“In October 2007 the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) conducted an enquiry into fraud, corruption and maladministration that plagued the social grant system. The SIU’s findings revealed that fingerprint-based identification had prevented R690-million from being paid out to fraudulent claimants since 2005.
"A total of 288 682 people who were illegally receiving grants was removed from the system. According to the unit, 21 587 of those were public service personnel who received grants illegally,” he adds.
In addition to preventing crime in the government sector, fingerprint biometrics plays an important role in crime prevention in the private sector as well.
“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 scope of the problem in commerce. It truly costs companies and individuals a lot of money,” Coetzee continues.
“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 traditional forms of identification, including cards, PINs and passwords.
“Identification by biometrics is a definitive way to link an identity to whatever transaction the 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 adds.
As specialists in identity system development and application Ideco continues to maintain a close eye on developments in the local market.
The company 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 system to eventually replace traditional forms of identification such as cards, PINs and passwords in the financial sector, within the foreseeable future,” concludes Coetzee.