South Africa’s ABIS biometric system launches

Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS)
South Africa's DHA gets serious on biometrics.

On 16 May, South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba launched the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS). The new identification system provides the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) with a single view of citizens across their interactions with the agency.

A single source

ABIS will replace the Home Affairs National Identity System (HANIS), a manually operated system deemed to have become outdated.

As part of a major upgrade to its identification systems, DHA plan seeks to integrate HANIS and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) into an automated system through ABIS. It will have the capability to identify and verify people via finger scans, facial recognition and IRIS technology.

According to a statement from DHA, the ABIS is a “fundamental baseline for the broader National Identification System that will consolidate South African and foreign nationals’ data into a single base.”

In a speech at the ABIS media launch, Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni commented, “ABIS constitutes a vital component of the quest to reposition the department to the extent that it properly and fully discharges its mandate to meet people’s expectations, by, among other things, capitalising on opportunities of a rapidly changing, globalised, digital world we live in.

“The plea, from the public, for better services, is informed by the reality that services we offer cannot be found anywhere else. Citizens, organs of state and the private sector, depend on mandatory services we offer. We register citizens’ births, thus confirming identity and civil status.”

EOH (EOH Mthombo Pty Ltd) was contracted to deliver ABIS as a result of a thorough procurement process. Other companies accrediated as possible bidders had included NEC Africa, Accenture South Africa, and Ernst & Young Advisory Services.

Linked government

According to Minister Gigaba, the new system will position Home Affairs to also address the requirements of other government agencies.

“What is pressing for the police, is for Home Affairs to fulfil requirements relating to the fingerprint search functionality. It should, going-forward, provide, additional biometric modalities, such as iris scan, palm print and infant footprint, over and above what the archaic HANIS used to provide,” said the minister.

“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 clients. It will serve as a single source for biometric authentication of citizens and non-citizens across state institutions and private sector entities.”

The ABIS project will be rolled-out in phases over a five-year period. Implementation will involve migration of current HANIS data (fingerprints and facial recognition) to the new system, installation and configuration of ABIS infrastructure (hardware), and the building of system functionalities.

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