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Government recommends improved biometrics for children

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The Department of Home Affairs set out new recommendations for Identity Documents which aim to help prevent identity theft. 

South Africa has been hailed as one of the best countries on the continent for its identity document rollout and especially its recent upgrade to smart IDs. South Africa along with Botswana and Zimbabwe are the countries on the continent with the most highly developed systems, which cover most if not all the population efficiently. 

Other African countries are lagging behind when it comes to issuing such identification papers and have definitely not reached the heights of biometric inclusion. This is often as a result of corrupt and volatile governments and the significant rural population of most African countries. 

Even high-income countries like the US do not have an ID system. The country has no formal national ID card, as a result of its federalist structure and resistance to an overall national registry. This has resulted in issues when it comes to identity verification, especially around elections.  

So, what's the problem? 

The department claims that identity theft as a result of poor biometric capturing of children is a concerning problem for the country. They said they have confirmed cases of children being passed off as different people, which is because of this lack of biometric capturing. 

Currently, until a child turns 16 the only proof of identity is a birth certificate which records their name, their parents and their date of birth and ID number. The ID number only identifies their gender and date of birth. There are no pictures or fingerprints taken. 

As a result much of the new recommendations revolve around ensuring children's biometric data is captured almost immediately and linked to their parents.

The recommendations

The Department of Home Affairs recommended a number of solutions which they argue would close this gap. 

The first is starting biometric recording from birth. The department is pushing for children to have their biometric data captured at birth as part of their birth registry and have their parents biometric data linked to their birth certificate. 

The second recommendation is to have the ID number of the child based on the biographic information and linked to the numbers of their parents. 

The final recommendation relating to children's biometrics is the requirement of re-registration when the child turns 5. This would include ten fingerprints and facial photographs, with special inclusion of photographs of the ear. 

Leila Stein

Leila Stein is an experienced multimedia journalist and content producer with a special interest in data journalism. she is skilled in news writing, editing, online writing and multimedia content production and have a Bachelor of Journalism  from Rhodes University and an Honours in Historical Studies from University of Cape Town.