Haiti opts for ID security program

Nov. 28, 2012 at 4:02 PM
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PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Haiti is investing in a high-tech security system aimed at solving chronic and costly problems with the country's chaotic civil and identity registry systems that worsened after the 2010 earthquake.

The temblor's aftermath saw unscrupulous gangs engaging in crimes that ranged from theft of relief supplies, state funds and materials to various kinds of ID fraud aimed at extracting donations, many from the United States.

For most senior officials in Haiti the topic remains taboo, even after revelations of large-scale misappropriation of relief funds.

Since the 2010 earthquake the FBI has issued repeated warnings about Haitian scams operating from the Caribbean nation, plots which are also suspected of having U.S. links.

Many of the scams are helped by lack of data about Haitian citizens, FBI data showed.

Abuse of aid funds is seen as one of the reasons why only about half of the $4.46 billion aid pledged after the quake has found its way into Haiti.

ID security firm Smartmatic said it would work with Haiti's government to upgrade the country's civil and identity registry system. Neither side discussed financial terms for the contract.

Smartmatic said the upgrade "represents an unparalleled opportunity for the Haitian government to ensure adequate planning and better compliance of measures to enforce human and civil rights."

The upgrade is also likely to promote inclusion and socio-economic development, and set basic foundations for the nation's legal and political structure, the company said.

Smartmatic said it will transfer "all the required technology knowledge to Haiti as the process unfolds.

"In the near future, the Caribbean nation will possess not only a state-of-the-art civil identity registry system, but all the technology and know-how for its continued development," it said.

Smartmatic Chief Executive Officer Antonio Mugica said the company was "focused on our projects having a significant social value for citizens in the countries where we operate. We firmly believe this will improve the quality of life of Haitians."

Ever since the January 2010 earthquake Haiti has been in constant upheaval, Smartmatic points out.

One of the more pressing concerns for Haitian authorities has been to reach realistic population figures about communities living across Haiti's 10,714 square miles of territory.

The earthquake killed at least 316,000 people, injured another 300,000 and left more than 1 million homeless.

Since that disaster, people have migrated across Haiti's regions, aggravating the need for an updated national biometric registry, the company said.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is in Haiti this week, leading about 600 volunteers from Habitat for Humanity to build about 100 new homes.

Smartmatic said during the project's one-year implementation, some 700 registration units will biometrically capture face photographs and full fingerprints of all Haitian citizens.

Of these, 600 units will be distributed across the country, and the remaining 100 among Haiti's foreign missions.

Smartmatic says it will also provide associated services, such as project management, technical support, capacity building, "to create the necessary infrastructure for Haiti to have a world-class national biometric enrollment platform."

Smartmatic is a multinational company with offices in the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere, Asia, Africa and Europe.

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