The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has launched its Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) which is expected to enable quicker response times at ports of entry.
Speaking at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town on May 16, Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, commented: “This modern IT system will integrate with other relevant systems, inside and outside Home Affairs, to allow for one holistic view of the status of the clients. It will serve as a single source for biometric authentication of citizens and non-citizens across state institutions and private sector clients.”
The Minister said the system brought several benefits, including quicker response times at ports of entry to capture and verify a traveller's identity and an improved border control.
The ABIS project was initiated in January 2016 with the aim of replacing the Home Affairs National Identity System (HANIS), which is manually operated and seemingly outdated, according to the DHA.
The Minister said one of the major challenges with HANIS was the imminent collapse of the over 20-year-old biometrics database, which left the department with no choice but to conduct a technology upgrade.
“The ABIS project will be rolled out in phases, over a five-year period. Among others, implementation will entail migration of the current HANIS data (fingerprints and facial recognition) to the new ABIS, with improved functionality, installation and configuration of ABIS infrastructure and building of system functionalities,” said Gigaba.
Haniff Hoosen, DA Shadow Minister of Home Affairs said that he supports the digitalisation taking place at Home Affairs, as it increases security. According to Hoosen, the ABIS has a greater inter-face and is an overall improvement.
Jose Cruz, National Executive Client Services Manager of HRG Rennies Travel, feels that the new biometric identification system will not afford immigration more capacity to deal with international travellers. He argues that it will only add yet another step for travellers to get through airport gates, thus contributing to, rather than reducing, traffic.
Cruz recently had a group of Nigerian travellers in transit at OR Tambo International Airport (Ortia) who were seemingly disgruntled about the lengthy queues due to the amount of time that the finger scanning process was taking. He adds that the ongoing problem regarding the lack of staff at Ortia does not help.
Hoosen however says that despite initial delays during the systems introduction at Ortia, things seem to be running smoothly at present.