Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says the new Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) project will help integrate all systems, inside and outside government, to offer a single source for biometric authentication for citizens.
The Minister said this when he spoke at the launch of the new system at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town on Wednesday morning.
He said the system will drastically change the manner in which South Africans are identified and will form a back-bone of how the public and private sector will manage the authentication of their clients.
“This modern IT system will integrate with other relevant systems, inside and outside Home Affairs, to allow for one holistic view of the status of the clients.
“It will serve as a single source for biometric authentication of citizens and non-citizens across state institutions and private sector clients,” he said.
The ABIS project was initiated in January 2016 with an aim to replace the Home Affairs National Identity System (HANIS), which is manually operated and out-dated.
One of the major challenges that were faced with HANIS, the Minister said, was the imminent collapse of the over 20 year-old biometrics database, which left the department with no choice but to conduct a technology upgrade.
He said the department partnered with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to develop specifications for a new biometric database. He said the department worked with the State Information Technology Agency to procure a future-fit Automated Biometric Identification system and EOH was contracted to deliver the system after a thorough procurement process.
“The ABIS project will be rolled-out in phases, over a five year period. Among others, implementation will entail migration of the current HANIS data (fingerprints and facial recognition) to the new ABIS, with improved functionality, installation and configuration of ABIS infrastructure and building of system functionalities,” he said.
The Minister said the system brings with it several benefits.
It will lead to faster turn-around times for those applying for ID documents or passports, reduced cases of duplicate identities and a future fit identification and security solution in support of national government’s drive towards modernisation of all departments for service efficiency.
On the economy, banks will be able to verify client identification quicker and the tourism sector will benefit due to quicker response times at ports of entry to capture and verify a traveller’s identity.
On the country’s security, the SA Police Service will be able to search for suspects by matching latent prints against ABIS records. The system will also lead to improved border control, which should create a competitive economic environment to attract critical skills, enable growth, increase foreign direct investment and create jobs.
“This integrated multi-modal system that is scalable and expandable for future capabilities is itself protected through cutting edge authentication and security protocols.
“This approach of ensuring our technology is future-ready, builds on the approach used to develop the smart ID card, which has now been issued to 10 million citizens.
“As part of ABIS awareness, officials will be exposed to new and modern ways of working,” he said.