Yet another ID card for Nigerian citizens

Nigeria is been having bad luck when it comes to national id cards for a long time. Previous efforts ended with large scale corruption scandal, like the one in 2003 or some later attempts with poor adoption rate. This attempt is promised to work at last. Let’s take a look into the details. 

While historically national identification project in Nigeria was a failure we can’t say there was no benefit from those efforts. National Identity Number (NIN) is one of those things that worked. Even if not too many residents applied and obtained the number a working infrastructure already exists, legislation process is complete and country administration is ready. Also a lesson learned from mistakes could be useful when planning for next steps.

ID card issued starting 2011 was very modern for the time. It incorporated biometric details and a smart contact chip which would integrate with providing various services. All these great features however did not manage to catch enough desire of the country population. Since Nigeria struggles with banking system accessibility issues the next best this is said to be an ID card integrated with MasterCard branded banking solution. For those not familiar with the situation it’s estimated that close to half of adult population of the country has no access to banking services in any form. The statistics go significantly worse when focused on women, senior citizens or rural areas residents where over 80 percent is estimated to be excluded from the personal finance system.

Estimates show that as many as 13 million Nigerian would be included into banking system thanks to the national identification program which makes it the largest inclusion project in Africa if it works this time. Such development could result in to giant leap when it comes to the country economic and civilization progress

Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) which runs the project of enrolling all country residents age 16 and over to the National Electronic (e-ID) card system will be exclusively managing the data centers while financial part of the enterprise would be handled by Nigerian banks and Unified Payments one of the largest payment processing company also owned by Nigerian banks. e-ID holder would be capable of depositing funds, pay for goods and services, obtain social benefits and draw cash from ATM machines. MasterCards logo additionally allows to use the card for payments outside of the country.

So far the program has only cost $42.5 million which is change when you look at national range programs from the US perspective. With initial apathy overcame the enrollment centers capacity is being constantly overstretched according to NIMC officials. There are only a few centers at the present time which is explained with budgets constraints. Since the project is executed in private-public partnership every penny spent is carefully watched and it’s not surprising banks wouldn’t spend more than needed for an idea that failed so many times.

Many eyes are watching the progress of Nigerian e-ID implementation. What works in a country with underdeveloped infrastructure, large areas of poverty and high wealth disproportion should work in many countries in similar situation. After many mistakes and failures the general population sentiment towards the program may quickly turn around once any mistake is made. It’s part of global consensus that a country can’t move forward without fully adopted, integrated and reliable national identification system. ID cards and id badges in the form of national IDs, e-IDs, driver licenses and recently more and more smart phone applications become indispensable part of humanity and civil liberty just as a right to vote, which also more and more often requires identification even in well developed and settled democracies as the United States.

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Penn switches to prox ID cards

Penn state university is yet another large institution replacing magnetic stripe id cards with proximity tags. The trend has been set a while ago but it doesn’t mean everyone switched overnight. Progress is never free and this case is no exception.

Magstripe cards, developed in early 1970s by IBM have served many industries for years and they will stick around for some more time. The fact that new technology, far better in many ways is out there doesn’t necessary mean there is no more room for the old school technology. Naturally many technology enthusiasts pronounced this solution dead more than once yet just like personal computer it was more to make headlines than accurate diagnosis.

Magnetic strip as a data carrier has 2 undeniable advantages: price and simplicity. Both features allow for quick and very broad application which made it the most popular technology in retail credit and debit card sales. Such popularity means large amount of inertia to combat when looking to replace. To give the standard even more boost it was split into two flavors. High coercivity striped cards would be applied where high read (swipe) volume was expected, carrier in the form of nearly solid black stripe is very wear resistant but much stronger magnetic field would have to be employed in order to change the data stored. Such tags would often by programmed once for the lifetime. Credit, debit and mass transit access cards are the most popular example of Hi-Co cards. Low coercivity cards (Lo-Co for short) on the other hand require less energy to program and reprogram the data but at the same time cannot endure the same number of swipes. Such cards with light brown stripe find its use as hotels electric door keys and theme park access tags.

Proximity cards are anything but simple but at the same time it’s not a man landing on the moon complication level. The standard was developed in early 1970s allegedly in response to railroad systems need to track the freight cars. Since it’s hard to develop a mechanism for a cargo train car to swipe a card against the reader a contactless solution would have to be found. Two different technologies have emerged to address such scenarios. Scannable barcode was one of them and it secured a supremacy position in retail industry. Second one was the radio frequency proximity tag which outshined barcodes in access control technologies and tracing devices.

Barcode biggest advantage lies in its versatility, the image could be placed on virtually any printable material. Therefore the standard has no competition when cost is a factor however the solution is flawed with a limitation that could matter in many situations. If you have ever tried a self checkout at your local grocery or home improvement store there is a good chance you struggled to scan a product barcode. This is due to the fact that laser scanner has limited angle of the reading scope; it also lacks tolerance for any barcode contamination or wrinkles. All these inhibitions need to be taken into careful consideration wherever automated reading is a baseline requirement. prox coil

Proximity card or tag could guarantee positive communication regardless of the angle as long as the distance conditions are met and no interference occurs. This advantage comes at a higher ID badges price due to more expensive component materials. Heart and brain of each proximity id badge is a coil usually made of copper wire which plays two important roles. One is antenna transmitting radio waves on one of 3 standard frequencies, 125 kHz, 400 kHz or 13.56 MHz. Second function is to generate power; when a tag reaches the area of a reader device emitting electromagnetic field it generates electric power needed for reading and passing the data over radio waves.

Making a proximity device is fairly simple, squeezing it into a slim ID badge so it could double as an access card is whole another story. Early adoptions of prox ID tags were closer in thickness to a wallet than a credit card, even couple of years ago standard proximity card would be 100mil thick (ordinary id card is 30 mil) moreover it wasn’t printable. Workaround was to print a slim 10 mil sticker and attach it to the tag. This was bothersome enough for the adopters and manufactures managed to make a 30 mil thick, printable radio frequency ID card. Same one as Penn state decided to use.

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Valley Stream couple robbed by water supply company impostors

On July 29th 2014 a couple in Valley Stream, Long Island, New York was robbed by people presenting themselves as water company employees. New York American Water company has issued a statement urging its customers to pay attention when dealing with a people introducing themselves as service personnel. All company employees visiting customers carry photo identification badges, wear uniforms with company emblems and use vehicles with clearly visible logo. In case of any doubts a person should call customer service line and confirm the technician was actually dispatched. imposter cover can be blown

This scheme never gets old. Every once in a while we could hear or read about a story that happens in nearly identical way. Usually an older resident of a house, condo or apartment is targeted by the thieves. They knock on the door, introduce as service company workers, doesn’t really matter if it’s water supply, electric, gas, telephone, internet or cable TV service and seek access to the premises. For example they would ask to get access to the water meter which has supposedly malfunctioned; when the homeowner leads them to the place one of the fake technicians says he needs to go to the van to grab some tools while he or she actually goes for a robbery rampage.

As a matter of fact the case is not actually limited to service supply companies, is may as well be impostor of town services offering some help program for senior citizens. Goal is always the same, get access to the premises and draw dweller attention towards some subject so that alertness gets at ease.

While it might sound too obvious and draw some superficial opinions on the victims ability of proper judgement of a situation it’s actually more complicated than that and little details could play crucial roles in how things happen. Adult relatives of the victims often get surprised by the accident when they felt their parents wouldn’t get tricked so easily. Let’s take a look at a couple of reasons why seemingly simple and easy to read situation leads to a events difficult to handle by some people.

When a stranger knocks at the door most people open and check who is it. As soon some sort of identity is established and potential address mistakes cleared majority of people lets the person in. This creates a new set of circumstances. First, a potential intruder is already within premises and even if the homeowner realizes the danger the job is not as easy as slamming the door or screaming for help through the open front door. Pushing out a person who is reluctant to leave is a big challenge when a senior must face a healthy and fit adult.

Another factor is assistance that many elderly people need but often don’t realize or refuse to admit. In results they often end up with many unaddressed issues in their homes. Those could be simple to fix yet annoying problems such as blown light bulb. While easy to fix for a fit adult it becomes impossible for many old people scared to climb a ladder even if it’s just a couple of steps. For those reasons the risk of a person accepting help from strangers rises substantially. Accidents when people let a stranger into a house believing their son actually sent them to fix a leaking faucet do happen.

Last but definitely not least aspect is a psychological mechanism defined as denial. Long story short nobody wants to learn bad news; we don’t like realizing we’re seriously sick or wrong hence we tend to ignore or diminish the significance of symptoms. For example think of the following scenario: you let someone in believing he’s a electric company technician. When you take a glance through the window you see a passenger car in bad shape instead of a van in service company livery. First red flag is up, then you look at the guy and he’s wearing plain clothes, you ask him for ID card and he replies that he lost his and the company Human Resources is sloppy getting a replacement. At this point you have a reasonable doubt the person is who he says he is. Still the person could be legit and performing a task validated by the supply company. You don’t want to call the company and realize you’ve made a fool of yourself thinking that a hard working dude is a thief. This would make even the short relationship with the person embarrassing and no wonder we would like to avoid it where possible.

I brought all that up to help understand why this kind of crimes keep happening despite security alertness campaigns. It’s not only unfair to judge victims of these crimes as stupid or irresponsible but also it doesn’t explain and therefore doesn’t help prevention.

What are prevention measures then? Same as always and almost exactly the same one we ask our children to learn. You don’t get into a stranger’s car unless it’s clearly marked police vehicle, period. Once you in the car you lose large portion of the control over the situation. Same happens when letting a stranger inside the house. Technicians visiting clients are trained to be patient so there is nothing wrong to ask the person for staying outside, behind closed door while you make a call to validate credentials. Same comes when asking for identification. Some time ago our company didn’t even have an ID badge templates for parish personnel but these days religious organizations are important part of our client base. They actually encourage the visiting personnel to show IDs even if not asked.

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New York City municipal ID card law signed

Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently signed a piece of legislation to issue municipal id cards to all city residents regardless of their immigration status. This was one of the biggest item in his campaign for the office when he defeated Republican candidate Joe Lhota and became first Democratic New York City mayor since 1993.

Big Apple is probably one of the last cities with large immigration community to approach the subject of identification means shortage among alien population. The problem all these cities and towns are facing is the same for decades. There is not much city administration could do to solve illegal immigration problems since this belongs to federal administration so no town could deport illegal immigrants or grant them legal residence status. Safety and security on the other hand is a very local problem for authorities and it’s not a surprise they are trying to address it with available means.

city ID card used in Oakland municipal id program

There are two major issues associated with larger communities inability to obtain officially acceptable identification. First result of such circumstances is lack of legal and safe way of keeping money. Without a bank account many illegal immigrants carry large amounts of cash or keep it at home. This way they become targets for criminals and gangs. Second, even more crucial aspect of the case is reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement personnel. In order to testify a witness needs to establish his or her identity which is very difficult without a government issued id card or ID badge. Lack of proper identification naturally provokes a question for a reason of such state, if the answer is illegal immigration status then the fear of deportation or other administrative action prevents witness from testifying. Without witness testimony prosecution has often very limited means to charge criminals in court and police at the same time loses the most important source of information which happens to be community members cooperation.

While municipal custom id card could resolve identity issue for law enforcement agencies banking aspect is not so easy. As Michael Smith, the president and CEO of the New York Bankers Association pointed out the ID must meet federal criteria for counter terrorism and fraud prevention measures. For example all foreigners must provide Tax ID, passport number, alien number and unexpired foreign passport in order to open a bank account. While bankers are always open for new business it might make the matter more difficult. Some towns adopting the program ended up with id card that doubles as a debit card or prepaid credit card. This way they avoided strict regulations governing checking bank accounts.

Finance regulations are not the only challenge for the new personal identification program. The New York Civil Liberties Union denied its support for the program arguing that the data collected during the enrollment process could be then used for deportation raids against illegal immigrants.

In order for the program to be successful it must gain decent enrollment level otherwise it would be limited only to those we have no means of obtaining any other official form of identification. In order to achieve this goal the city officials plan to attach services and discounts to the new document. Citi Bike bicycle sharing program integration, discounts to museums and restaurants as well as free first year membership are on the list of incentives for those who decide to apply.

With tighter borders and more measures to counter illegal immigration it seems the peak of the problem could be behind us however number of undocumented aliens present in the country remains high. Without immigration reform at the federal level which struggles in the Congress for years local communities would be left alone dealing with the problem they can’t solve but must address.

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ID badges integrated camera hate crime prevention

Merseyside, a United Kingdom county based on Liverpool metropolitan area has introduced custom ID badges integrated cameras for small shop attendants to prevent hate crime. The program has been piloted by metropolitan police for couple of months and recording has already been used in court.

United Kingdom has long history of colonization of other nations. This is one of many contributing factors towards its ethnic and cultural mixture. Do you recall Mrs Doubtfire blockbuster family comedy? Robin Williams portraying an elderly English lady in his TV show asks his co host monkey if he knows what language they speak in England. When monkey replies Pakistani, Mrs Doubtfire confirms ‘Yes, in most stores, they do’. For someone who lives or visited United Kingdom this is exactly the impression. Most small convenience stores in metropolitan areas tend to be owned and ran by Middle East countries immigrants or their children. It’s not uncommon for some country immigrants to run certain kind of businesses, especially in large cities. Same happens in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. Ethnic tensions always exist in every multi cultural society yet they seem to be under control in times of good prosperity. Once economy turns bad and starts excluding people from stable income tensions tend to surface. In England a bias against Middle East immigrants was additionally boosted by September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and London public transportation bombing executed by Al-Qaida in 2005. Since 2008 crisis start hate crime on racial background has become a nightmare for English peacekeepers and search preventive measures remains in focus.

Internet hating was surprisingly found a great research place for both scientist trying to understand where is it coming from and government agencies finding measures to address it. Discrimination bias depends on populism and its false pretense, for example we find a person belonging to a group who committed a crime and then we start saying that all members of this group are criminals regardless of factual state. Supporting such false statement openly proves low intellectual level and risk of making fool of oneself therefore most hate expressions happen in anonymous situations. Internet is one of the most anonymous places and hate level is very high there. Many experiments prove that once anonymity is gone and all discussion is brought to identified level hate vanishes but also the drive to exchange views seems to reduce its grade.

Shopping at a small store is a pretty anonymous situation and no wonder abusive language towards foreign shop attendants has become a notorious crime across the pond. Fortunately for the victims and the police technology came to help. Imaging technologies progress have gone so far that wearing a camera would not cause moving discomfort. Just to have an idea how for we got it’s worth to mention that during Apollo space program in late sixties and seventies astronauts wore large handheld cameras attached to their suits so we could see them walking on the Moon. Belly mounted cameras were so big that Alan Sheppard golf swing on the moon had to be performed with one hand since the camera prevented both hands club grip. Now we have good quality cameras so small they easily fit into very slim smartphones and laptop screen lids. Also the price of video equipment made it much more affordable.

The Beatles city police idea is quite simple. They’ve ordered ID badge holders which looks like a frame and has a built in camera in the top. It also says ‘Recording in Progress’ in vivid yellow background. This way it serves 2 functions at the same time. Deters potential abusers from using offensive language and collects court data for those who can’t hold themselves from committing a hate crime. Stores already have CCTV cameras for shoplifting prevention, those can’t however produce sharp enough material to be useful by the prosecution.

Police commissioner has been awarded funds to acquire 48 camera systems which would be supplied to shopkeepers who have been subjects to the attacks. Other towns police departments would be closely watching how this project goes and learn their approach in hate crime prevention and prosecution.

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student RFID remains hot in Texas

We wrote about radio frequency tags used for high school student attendance tracking when the plan was announced for couple of Texas school districts. It’s a fairly simple solution where a custom id card fitted with radio transmitter allows for localizing card holder while on the campus or school bus.

The idea sparked some controversies upon announcement as well as during implementation. Concerns were mainly focused on civil liberty issues and the purpose of the program in general. While there are no objections that school attendance should improve the means leading to that goal don’t get such unanimous support.

Student attendance record is among the top factors when it comes to funds distribution from the state and federal governments. No wonder school district administration is looking into attendance boosting ideas. Parents and students have a different perspective on the topics. School is not all about attendance but education process which requires attendance but just student presence is not sufficient for success. Some students complain that schools districts should rather focus on classes quality and attractiveness rather than just dry records of who was present. Basically it’s not about bringing the horse to the water, it’s about making it drink. Subject is old and played to the bone yet getting anything useful from school during test taking strategies classes remains a concern for all involved, students, parents and teachers.

No story would be complete without media input. Tabloid media looking for drama are on constant hunt for anything than can be sold and person struggle against the system always sells well. This case is not different. We have a case of girl being expelled from the school for refusing to wear the id badge for religious reasons. She feels the tag is a “Mark of the Beast”. I admit I have not investigated the story by myself but it just sounds phony or blown out of proportion.

If the devil sign story is the only issue about RFID program then I see no issues but I feel it is not and any real debate is being overran with mediocre emotional spam.

custom id card

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LA municipal ID card moves forward

12 to 1 was the outcome of the Los Angeles city council vote in favor of municipal id cards. We wrote about the idea couple of times as it was gaining momentum. While handful of other towns already implemented the idea LA is by far the biggest city to start issuing id cards regardless of immigration status.

Document is meant for residents who are unable obtain state of California identification documents. Those include transgender, foster youth, homeless but most definitely the biggest group waiting for the move was the undocumented immigrants community. Also the main lobbying came from mostly Latino organizations.

Many critics would say that the town supports illegal immigration by accommodating identification documents for aliens but city also benefits from that move. It’s been estimated that over 10% of LA adult population has no bank account. Certainly not all of these people are poor and therefore many members of minorities carry much higher than average amount of cash. As those people are targeted by gangs and thieves crime rate grows dangerously. Moreover undocumented immigrants are reluctant to cooperate with the authorities reducing solved criminal case rate.

There are other factors also addressed by the id card, such cashing check places charging hefty rates for the unbanked and kids being picked from schools by people who can’t prove their identity.

The card is expected to launch in 2013, should cost no more than $20 and double as preloaded debit card. No application details have been revealed yet and it matters how the identity of the person would established upon id card issuance.

id card

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Swinging voter id law by state

For past 2 years we’ve covered voter id legislation changes in many states. On the election day it turned out that many states which hoped to pushed through their voter id legislation failed to make it law for this year presidential elections.

Let’s briefly go over the list
Mississippi is among the states which need US Department of Justice pre clearance in order to amend voting regulations. This is due to history of voter discrimination and applies to a number of Southern states. Mississippi passed its legislation back in 2011 but DOJ requested data in October this year which means lack of pre clearance for November elections. First time voters and unregistered voters still need photo ID to vote.

New Hampshire bill was vetoed by the governor which was overridden by the House making ID cards mandatory for election however affidavit vote is allowed without ID.

Pennsylvania, we wrote about yesterday, voter id is a no go as per judge ruling.

South Carolina needed DOJ preclearance which was denied twice, in December 2011 and June 2012. Then the DOJ was sued in the court which sustained the DOJ doubts in October ruling

Texas also needed DOJ pre clearance that was denied in March 2012. The decision was sued in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia which unanimously ruled the law might hurt minority and poor voters and therefore cannot be executed.

Wisconsin law was also suspended in court in July of 2012 and remains out of force for the presidential election.

id card

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Pennsylvania voter id law just ahead of elections

Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes gets a lot of attention from both candidates for the president office. The state has observed a struggle between supporters and opponents of voter id legislation passed earlier in the year.

The highly partisan legislation was first appealed in the court by the Democrats and citizen liberty activists. First ruling by the judge back in the summer was to sustain the law but on October the 2nd ruling was not to enforce the regulation during upcoming presidential election as the progress of supplying id cards to those who lack them was considered insufficient.

Worth to note here that PennDOT has gone an extra mile and started to issue a custom id card, designed just for voting. It carried relaxed set of application requirements where it comes to supporting documents and was issued free of charge.
Interestingly the the Pennsylvania Department of State spent $5 million for an advertising campaign on the new law which wasn’t stopped even after the judge verdict. The campaign showed and ID card and the words ‘show it’ in large font while much smaller fonts said that photo ID is not mandatory for voting. The action picked up a lot criticism from civil rights unions.

One of the electric supply company also inserted a flyer with a bill sent to the customers advising on the new legislation.

Many of these alert effort might have been taken without any political bias yet only added to the confusion. It’s hard to blame someone for making people aware of the law but changing a law knowing it’s controversial and will spark court appeals less than a year ahead of major election is something that might be worth another thought.

id card

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medicare id cards and Social Security number

Medicare id card using Social Security number as a part of identification number issue is not new and it comes and goes. Recently it surfaced again during the presidential campaign when someone waved the card at the election rally.
Everybody knows that carrying Social Security card in the wallet is a bad idea, not only because it’s paper based and therefore not very wear resistant but primarily because the Social Security number can be read out of it directly without even any decryption. Moreover there is no need to carry SS id card. Things are different when it comes to Medicare cards, these needs to be carried as patients need them to obtain medical services yet the id card contains the Social Security number which when stolen and combined with other personal data which can be found in a wallet makes powerful tool of stealing the money.medicare id card

Why is it there? Simply because the program is old. Medicare was founded by Congress in 1965, those were the days where there was no photo on the driver’s licenses and identity theft was a very rare crime.

Why it hasn’t been fixed? Simply because it’s too big to fix and therefore too expensive. The program covers 48 million people in the US and it’s estimated it would cost close to a billion dollars upgrade the cards. It’s not just the cards that cost so much but the computer infrastructure, training and upgrades at medical facilities to be compatible. You don’t have to be an expert in finance to know that such spending is a no go under current federal budget deficit conditions.

No hope? Not around the corner for sure. There is a solution already in the pipe, it plans to replace current cards with smart id cards (the ones containing chip with encrypted data), costs 1.3 billion to implement and promises to save 50-100 billion a year in cutting waste and fraud and has bipartisan support and was submitted to Congress little over a year ago and it’s still there. My gut is telling me that medical industry is not there yet and therefore the legislation lacks the necessary steam to push through.

id card

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