By Dr Risco Mutelo
Nations have been using Machine-Readable Passports since the 1980s. Fraudsters have had many years to enhance their art and thus making the current paper passports vulnerable to widespread counterfeiting and forgery. In addition, the events of 9/11 or the subsequent changes to the US visa waiver programme resulted in the need for a more secure travel document. A new kind of passport called electronic passport (or E-Passport) was being issued by many nations world-wide to their citizens. E-Passport represents a major shift in passport technology, with the introduction of computer chips and biometrics. E-Passport employs a contactless smart card technology, which when swiped across an electronic reader, the chip in the passport wirelessly transmits data to a custom officer's computer screen by using radio frequency identification technology (RFID). RFID is a generic term that is used to describe a system that transmits the identity (in the form of a unique serial number) of an object or person wirelessly, using radio waves.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has played a significant part in driving the E-Passport.
ICAO mandates & directives: The compliance requirements for members of regional or international groups to relevant standards and regulations defined by ICAO in Document 9303 kick started the roll out of E-Passports and E-Visa. A major reason for the driver is that it is mandatory for ICAO member countries and EU countries to implement the E-passport.
In 2012, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) published a presentation “titled ePassport and Biometrics”. The presentation had some interesting points to note:
- Many countries had issued E-Passports which did not comply with any international standards such as ICAO. The total number of issued E-Passports which were both compliant and non compliant was estimated at 489 522 100. Of which Africa had issued 10 195 000, East Asia and Pacific issued 114 300 000, Europe and Eurasia had issued 212 462 000, Near East had issued 6 920 000, South and Central Asia had issued 50 500 000, Western Hemisphere had issued 95 145 000.
- Many countries had indicated their intention to issue E-Passports in the future but the exact number has not been provided.
- Many countries were using Fingerprint, Face or Iris recognition.
However, implementing biometric based solution has its own challenges and requires consultations as the costs of getting such a project wrong can be significant. Nations implementing non compliant E-Passports are faced with a major challenge in terms of human resources and cost to make the passports compliant. More information on the implementation of biometrics based solutions can be requested from risco. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Risco Mutelo is a Namibian who is currently stationed in London where he studied Biometrics Engineering at New Castle University in the United Kingdom. New Era Reporter
2014-07-02 11:00:53 | 5 years ago