Earlier this spring, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) decided to move forward with its planned goal to use biometric technology to identify refugees. The UNHCR has partnered with Accenture, an international technology services company, to oversee the development and implementation of the technology for a contract period of three years.
The UNHCR will use Accenture’s Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS) for the project. BIMS is capable of collecting iris, facial and fingerprint biometric data, and will be used to provide refugees with often their only form of official documentation. The system will work in collaboration with Accenture’s Unique Identity Service Platform (UISP) to transmit this personal information to a central database in Geneva, allowing UNHCR offices all over the world to effectively track refugees.
The pilot project started in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi, and has expanded over the last couple of years to provide services in Thailand and Chad. So far, it has provided identification to over 220,000 people in refugee camps in the two countries. It is certainly an ambitious endeavor, but Accenture has experience in projects of this size. For example, the company has assisted the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Biometric Identity Management with an enormous border control initiative.
Indeed, the company has demonstrated that reliable, biometric ID cards can cost-effectively be used on a large scale. Moreover, the ID cards are important for helping to ensure that refugees can have access to services, and for keeping track of refugee populations.
The program offers hope for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal of getting these legal ID cards to everyone in the world by the year 2030 with its Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative.
Identity management solutions can be used for much more than tracking refugees. As reported a few weeks ago, the World Bank is now working in collaboration with Accenture and calling on governments across the globe to cooperate and work together to develop and implement standardized identity management solutions. And while identifying refugees seems wholly different than tracking cash transactions, the identification process and theory behind it remains the same.
According to some, world governments wish to discourage the public from using cash in any type of transaction. Governments have a much harder time tracking cash - which is used by drug traffickers and tax evaders. In order to crack down on these problems, governments are slowly issuing tighter and tighter cash restrictions. Some countries have limits on amounts that can be transacted when using cash. And it appears that the restrictions on the use of cash will only continue.