My car was recently burglarized. The right conditions for the crime were met: Dark parking spot, attractive-looking bag visible through the rear glass. I was careless and although I had good insurance cover, I still had that helpless feeling of having been violated. Beside the shattered glass window, I could see very clearly the fingerprints of the perpetrators and this immediately got me thinking.
Suffering in the midst of plenty
There are myriads of bio-metric data sets currently available to the Nigerian government. If you have an international passport, driver’s license, voters card or national identity card, your unique bio-metric data exists in all these disparate data repositories. The apparent inability of the government till date to harmonize these databases and extract some real value from them is what lends credibility to the commonly held assertion that Nigeria is data-rich but information poor.
Use what you have to get what you want
According to Nigerian Bureau of Statistics figures, as at January 2017, there were about 150 million GSM subscribers. Factor in that most Nigerians have at least two numbers, and we can estimate about 75 million unique identities captured in the bio-metric databases and fully accessible to the government. This represents about 40% of the total Nigerian population, a high percentage even by international standards.
In another, better Nigeria, all the various disparate bio-metric databases (never mind that they should never have been disparate in the first place) would be harmonized through back-end data reduplication technology. Nigerian law enforcement officials would have controlled and audited access to this single, consolidated identity database. Legal safeguards such as the requirement for a search warrant can be incorporated into the data access protocol. Fingerprints collected from crime scenes can be run against the harmonized identity database to obtain the identities of suspects for further investigation. Some crimes would be solved almost immediately.
If it is true as they say, that data is the new oil, then this is one resource that we as a country have in enormous quantities. It is up to us to mine this resource and extract maximal value from it, hopefully for a much safer nation.