October 18, 2017

Trackable identity: Why identity management is key, to ease of doing business in Nigeria

Trackable identity: Why identity management is key, to ease of doing business in Nigeria

Tony Ojobo

By Prince Osuagwu

SINCE World Bank’s Ease  of Doing Business index debuted in 2006, Nigeria has done everything to improve in its ranking. The index includes aggregate figures that comprise different parameters which define the ease of doing business in a country.

The Ease of Doing Business, EDB, index ranks countries against each other based on how the regulatory environment is conducive for business operations and strenght of  protecting property rights. These parameters, incidentally, are the same in determining the level of Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, a particular country can attract. Nigeria needs foreign direct investment, be it in ICT, agriculture or tourism and would do anything to keep the the business environment  attractive for foreigners investators.

Tony Ojobo

However, no matter how hard we try, circumstances still hinder progress. Recall that in EDB index, economies with a high rank (1 to 20) have simpler and friendlier regulations for businesses. Nigeria is ranked 169 among 190 economies in EDB Index, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings, technically unfriendly.

Nigeria’s rank only improved to 169 in 2016 from 170 in 2015. EDB in Nigeria averaged 145.00 from 2008 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 170.00 in 2014 and a record low of 120.00 in 2008. What this means is that the country also needs to work hard to further boost the business environment to be better than it was in 2008.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, believes that the only way to bridge the gap is to reduce human interface in the processes and activities while increasing digital application in every individual or government transaction in the country.

Director Public Affairs of the commission, Mr. Tony Ojobo, at an event organised by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, recently, said that the countries that would continue to dominate the ease of doing business index are countries that have adopted high levels of trackable identity.

He argued that a trusted and reliable trackable identity is always a function of a central data base for the citizens, which even potential investors can depend on. Ojobo, while speaking on Trackable Identity and Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria, said trackable identity has become a critical enabler for doing business worldwide.

He said: “In spite of whatever challenges, the global trend is for all citizens to be registered, and for each citizen to be covered with a legal identity including birth registrations. Citizen Registration is now an item in post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda with 2.4 billion people identified as having no official identity and these people reside in Africa and Asia.

“While traditional identification rely on passwords, PINs, smart cards, and the likes, biometric identification, using finger prints and iris scans are generally more reliable and secure. They are adopted more universally like in driving licenses’ and international passports. Biometrics identities are also more reliable in linking individuals to events and actions. It is therefore preferred by security institutions in fighting crimes.”

Ojobo further described trackable Identity as the country’s ability to identify an individual through some natural physiological features as may be shown by photographs or marks and other characteristics.

He, however, said it is being more associated with the ability to identify a particular person in cyberspace, or in electronic devices which offers digital identification. According to him, the scope of trackable identity is being widened within the digital world to include tracking objects with application of tags that could be linked to a mobile phone, or other devices.

“Trackable identities have gone to the level of sophistication where individuals have chips implanted in them for the purpose of having exclusive access to locations or files or being recognized.Ojobo listed identity trackable projects in Nigeria to SIM card registration; NIS International passport; Bank Verification Number; Drivers license; Voter ID card/PVC; National Health Insurance Scheme; Federal Inland Revenue Service; DNA Forensic lab from Lagos Residents Registration Agency, LASRA, National Population Commission (Plans to do biometric registration for 2018 Census).”Unlike in most developed countries, these data projects are not yet harmonized with a central data registry for all citizens,” he stated.

He listed the benefits of trackable identity to include facilitation of identification, traceable and trailable business transactions, enhanced security, reduction in elements of mistrust, reduction in incidences of fraud, traceable object/person identifier, data capture capabilities, and storage of proper transaction history among others. Ojobo averred that “any government that is serious about eliminating corruption, should reduce human interface and increase tech capabilities. Ease of doing business can also be attained if we increase technological applications”.