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Dr Paul Nampala, the former Executive Secretary of Uganda National Academy of Science, and senior lecturer in the Department of Biometrics Technology at Makerere University, said the use of this technology in Uganda was first spotted in the airlines sector where a passenger was required to place all fingers on a machine for purposes of obtaining the finger prints for identification.

Though he could not tell the particular period when the people began using the technology here, he says it eventually spread to other sectors like in the government analytical laboratory where DNA tests are conducted. Worldwide in any airport, traveller’s passports are scanned to define their features.

“When you look at our fingers, you see similarities but the characteristics are different and can be identified using biometrics technology. In the forensic departments involving government analysts globally, science experts use the technology to trace people’s identity by conducting DNA tests which is applied in Uganda as well,” he said.

Dr Nampala says using this technology is simple because it is a matter of remembering the basic mathematics equation when carrying out an activity. In Africa, the technology has been applied by electoral bodies in countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Gabon, South Africa, Ghana and Ivory Coast among others.

The Director, Technical Support Services at Uganda’s Electoral Commission, Mr Pontius Namugera, said the technology is aimed at producing a credible voter register. He is of the view that biometrics technology can work well with e-elections because multiple rigging arises out of practices such as double registration which can be easily checked in the e-elections since the entire system is computerised.

In Uganda’s recently concluded Parliamentary and presidential elections, the Electoral Commission team conducted and updated the voter register using laptops that were equipped with biometrics technology equipment. The technology is used to identify a person’s characteristics basing on physiological and behavioural features by EC IT experts while carrying out voter registrations for elections in a particular country.

It is done using a unique identifier which could be one’s fingerprints, iris and retina parts of someone’s eye, hand geometry and the palm, voice recognition as well as a person’s facial appearance. The exercise is a combination of both hardware and software that are programmed on a computer. Namugera described the technology of using a software routine called Algorithm which is used to extract the features of a particular person during the registration exercise for computation. The process includes capturing people’s pictures as well as their fingerprints using a finger reader for purposes of avoiding double registration.

“What our team did was to acquire the biometric data, analyse and store it in our central system. “We used facial recognition system and automated fingerprint identification for purposes of identifying people’s unique characteristics. There is a measure which takes the fingerprint as well as the face. Once it is computed, it will compare that information with the registration information,” Namugera explained.

But there is the challenge of lack of skilled personnel especially in the rural areas and the cost of transporting the equipment.

The cost of using biometric technology according to the expert is very huge but it is necessary especially in an era of terrorism.

cap: understanding biometric technology

What is Biometrics technology? Biometrics technology is an automated method used to identify a person based on physiological and behavioural characteristics using a unique identifier.

It can as well be defined as applied mathematics in Biology for purposes of identifying individual characteristics using finger prints and pictures.

How does it work?

The technology is used to identify a person’s characteristic basing on physiological and behavioral features by EC IT experts while carrying out voter registrations for elections in a particular country.

It is done using a unique identifier which could be one’s finger, iris and retina parts of someone’s eye, hand geometry and the palm, voice recognition as well as a person’s facial appearance.

Source: Monitor news