Biometric National ID 2016 at a Glance

These recent years have been a vibrant time for biometric national identification card which has been introduced in numerous countries around the world. It is estimated that 120 countries are now deploying e-passports and over 50 countries are implementing eID cards with biometrics as a secure feature. The transformation of national ID from paper-based documents into smarter electronic cards is inevitable evolution trend due to following main reasons:

  • Growing national security problems such as territory leading to rigorous control of identity
  • Enhancing the effectiveness and transparency in public benefits distribution
  • Narrowing the “identity gap” as formal identification is a prerequisite for development in the modern world
biometric national ID


While some countries are hesitant in adopting biometric IDs, other countries have been taking the lead such as India, China, and Malaysia to name a few in Asia Pacific. Across Africa we have South Africa, Nigeria and more recently Algeria. In other parts of the world, there is Mexico, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Germany, Turkey, etc. which have implemented one, two or even three of the biometric modalities including fingerprint, facial and iris recognition. In the near future, there will be Australia and Kenya who are both having an eye for biometric enabled national ID card for their citizens. According to Acuity Market Intelligence (2014), the number of electronic National IDs in circulation will reach 3.5 billion citizens by 2018 which means the number of countries issuing national eIDs will overtake those issuing traditional national IDs by a ratio of more than 5 to 1. While fingerprint has been very popular among us for a long time, other advanced biometric technologies such as iris recognition are quickly adopted thanks to its high accuracy and security which can overcome fingerprint’s drawbacks. And in fact, iris-based national ID has been used by India, Mexico, Indonesia and possibly Bangladesh, Singapore in the coming time.

Biometric-based identification card can be used for various purposes and bring many benefits. It can act as an electronic passport, voter identity document, immigration credential, and identification for healthcare and government services. In addition, using sophisticated biometric modalities such as iris recognition or combining two or more biometric modalities would make it extremely hard to counterfeit, hence, secure a citizen’s identity. By deploying a biometric enabled national identification card and having central biometric database, the citizens and government can be both leveraged from its benefits including streamlined operation system and enhanced social security.

The International Biometric Industry Association (IBIA) do suggest that biometrics should be used for national identification, voter registration, immigration passing, single sign-on to access healthcare records, financial transactions. Furthermore, it is forecasted by ABI Research that governmental biometric expenditures will reach US$8.6 billion and still forms the largest portion of biometric expenditures by 2020. Research Analyst Dimitrios Pavlakis added “Revenue growth is primarily driven by law enforcement and civil applications, namely border control, access control, work force management, and biometric national ID initiatives—each with their own unique pitfalls and opportunities.”

It is obvious that the use of biometrics for national ID helps countries to ensure the accurate citizen identification, increase social security, enhance border control, and more. Country’s governments can take advantage of this innovative technology to strengthen social, political, and economic development.