ID-4-PAPD: Greasing our Development Wheels (Part 4)

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To respond to the problem of identity fraud, ID authorities have over the years taken actions to improve the integrity and strength of their systems.

Introducing the NID Verification Platform

Today, May 9, 2019, the NIR holds a kickoff event for the introduction of a verification platform for the national ID card. The program starts at 9:00am at the Monrovia City Hall. Join us as we march towards the future boldly. Tomorrow, here we come.

This is a major step for Liberia’s march towards a digital society. ID systems exist for a reason: mainly to provide proof of identity. However, due to widespread fraud and other crimes, it is a great challenge to issue an ID card that, by itself, provides a high degree of proof of identity. It is for this reason that ID systems have gone far beyond the card itself to include other components, as I explained in last week’s article which was titled ‘What Make ID Systems Thick?’. In this article, we will be looking at ID verification, which I consider one of the three major components of a great ID system.

Why Verify an ID

There are many people who engage in unlawful activities for which they desire fake identifications. These people can create fake identification cards, or steal the ID cards of others to impersonate as the original owner of the card. Such criminal acts can destroy the reputation of an ID system and create many problems for society. To respond to this problem, ID authorities have over the years taken actions to improve the integrity and strength of their systems. One of such actions is the introduction of ID verification, which provides an extra layer of security to confirm the ID. Many institutions and some individuals use verification services in the conduct of their business.

How ID Verification Works?

When an ID card holder presents his/her card to the representative of an institution, such as a bank or telecommunications company, that representative can use a verification device or tool to confirm the authenticity of the ID. For example, if you go to a bank to cash a check, the bank teller can carry out a process that will give him/her more assurance that you are the owner of the ID and therefore the check. One way to do this is for the teller to take your ID number and enter it into their computer. By doing this, the bank’s computer will be asking the giant computer at the National Identification Registry (NIR) to send information about you. If your card is legitimate, the NIR computer will send your information to that bank computer and display it on the screen. However, if your card is not legitimate, the NIR computer will say that such a card does not exist.

By displaying your information on the computer screen, the teller is able to compare information on the screen with information on the card, as well as with information that you can provide in person. Some of the information that will be displayed on the screen are your picture, name, date of birth, father’s name and mother’s name. The teller can compare your face with the photo on the ID card and the photo on the computer screen. He/she can also ask you some questions so that you can confirm some information that is on the screen. These types of questions can be very important because some of the information that will be displayed on the teller’s computer are not on the ID card. This means that if you are not the owner of card, you may not know some of this information, like the voting precinct of the card owner.

By comparing this information, the teller is able to have high confidence that he/she is doing business with the right person. Isn’t this amazing and important? I think it is. This can prevent mistakes and even crimes, thereby saving institutions and society from a lot of problems.

ID Verification can happen in several different ways. Some of the common ways are: use of a computer screen, a smartphone screen, text messaging, and biometric verification devices. With computer and phone screens, personal information of the ID holder is displayed on the screen of the device. Text messaging involves the receipt of a message on the phone providing information that confirms or denies the legitimacy of the ID card. With biometric verification, the card holder will place his/her finger (s) on the device. After that, the device will communicate with the NIR computer and then send a message confirming or denying the authenticity of the fingerprint, meaning ‘yes’ the fingerprints match or ‘no’ the fingerprints do not match.

Wrapping UP

The biometric national ID verification platform will help Liberia take a giant step forward towards digitization. It is an amazing technology that will ensure that the ID cards that institutions use to serve people are genuine. This is why we promote this platform with the phrase, ‘hello tomorrow’, which means Liberia is stepping into the future.  

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