South Africa launches ABIS project in Cape Town
16 May 2018 16:06 GMT

South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has launched an Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) Project, in Cape Town.

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

Gigaba said the ABIS Project will advances the country's Modernisation Programme and transformation imperatives broadly.

"The department's transformation journey started in 1994 with the establishment of a single national department, having inherited a fragmented civil registration system, with only 4.5 million people enjoying access to acceptable levels of civic services, to the exclusion of the African majority.

"In 2011, a system-wide modernization programme was initiated, to create a digital environment. The programme entailed making significant changes to how the department operated, including systems development, streamlining processes and change management. The long-term goal was building a single, integrated, digital platform for the department and the Republic as a whole".

He said one of the major challenges faced was the imminent collapse of the over 20-year old biometrics database, HANIS, which left the department with no option but to conduct a technology upgrade.

"To this end, the department partnered with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to develop specifications for a new biometric database. It worked with the State Information Technology Agency to procure a future-fit Automated Biometric Identification System. EOH was contracted to deliver the ABIS, as a result of a thoroughgoing procurement process".

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.

The ABIS project started in January 2016. It is a modern IT system based on commodity hardware. It was designed to be run as a critical service without interruptions. It promises many possibilities in identity management while speaking to the type of Home Affairs we want to see in the future.

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.