Registration operations

The registration and data update processes must as easy and simple as possible. Most people should be able to complete the data collection process in less than five or ten minutes after waiting in a queue for as little time as possible. The overall experience should be a positive one, whether registration is done at temporary or permanent registration points.

Key lessons for designing registration processes

Based on the experiences of a wide-variety of countries with different contexts and ID systems, the following good practices have emerged regarding registration operations overall:

  • Inclusive and flexible evidence requirements. As described in Section III. Registration & Coverage > Proofing Identity Claims, having strict requirements for the documentation that people provide as evidence of their identity is not only likely to exclude some populations but also increase the cost of registration because people may have to obtain those documents if they do not currently have them.

  • Operating times should account for people’s regular lives. Registration points should be open outside of traditional work hours—e.g., 7am to 7pm—and on weekends to allow people who work during regular business hours to register without taking time from work. During business hours, it could be useful to have registration teams to visit workplaces with large numbers of people

  • Provide appropriate space and facilities for large crowds. When people visit temporary or permanent registration points, there should be sufficient space and seating—with prioritization given to less mobile persons—and the conditions should allow people to wait as comfortably as possible—e.g., with lighting, air conditioning or fans, shade (if outside), toilets, enough waste bins, and food and drinks available nearby. If it is a temporary registration point, registration staff should ensure that waste is not left behind when the registration teams move to their next location.

  • Crowd control and physical accessibility are very important. There should be an adequate number of staff who can greet people and manage the queue, as well as equipment—e.g., signage and rope lines or other barriers. Registration staff should also coordinate with local police and medical personnel who can respond in case there is any incident. If there are security challenges, it may be necessary to request police to stay at the registration point or hire temporary security guards. Whether temporary or permanent, registration points should be reasonably accessible by public or private transport, as well as being accessible for persons with physical disabilities—e.g., with ramps and elevators.

  • Leverage existing physical spaces and infrastructure where possible. Schools, local halls and sports facilities can provide excellent physical infrastructure for an initial mass registration—they are typically accessible, safe, and have sufficient space. These are also often spaces used by Government and civil society to convene local populations and are therefore familiar to the population. ID agencies should work closely with local governments and election bodies to identify suitable sites since they respectively have experience with organizing community events and setting up temporary polling stations across the country.

  • There should be exception handling mechanisms built into the process and software, particularly for people who cannot provide biometrics of adequate quality. Some people—e.g., manual laborers, the elderly, persons with disabilities, diabetics, etc.—will be unable to provide fingerprints or other biometrics of a quality that would be acceptable for the ID system. In order to not prevent them from gaining access to the ID system, there should be exception handling mechanisms that allow a registration staff or their supervisor to override the requirement for certain biometrics.

  • Registration staff should authenticate themselves at the beginning and end of collecting data on each applicant. To facilitate auditability and ensure accountability for each and every identity record, the registration staff should authenticate themselves with a high level of assurance at the beginning and the end of each applicant’s registration.

  • Encrypt data on registration devices and reduce the amount of time that personal data is stored on them. Each registration packet comprises sensitive data that if breached could have significant consequences for the concerned individual. While it should be possible to edit data during the process of the data being collected—e.g., for the applicant to verify the data themselves and to correct mistakes if needed—the data should be encrypted the moment the data collection is completed and should only be able to be decrypted by the central systems that are doing the identity proofing. Furthermore, the data should be immediately uploaded to the central server and then wiped from the local device to reduce the risk of the data being lost if the physical device is lost, stolen or damaged.

  • Provide people with a registration receipt as a reference. If Identity proofing and deduplication is not going to be completed on the spot, then people should be provided with a receipt containing a temporary reference number for their registration, so they can follow up on the status of their registration—e.g., through a web portal, call center, app or USSD—or potentially update their data before the identity proofing has been completed. The receipt could be printed using a regular desktop printer or a high-quality thermal printer, which could be shared among several registration devices. It is critical that the receipt is durable and contains the data that was provided at the time of registration, so the applicant can easily refer to the data they provided.

  • Allow people to update information provided after they have registered and before the identity proofing and deduplication process has been completed. In some cases, people may need to update certain attributes—e.g., address and phone number, or possibly even date of birth if they have found additional evidence—after they have been through the initial registration but before the identity proofing process has been completed. This can be facilitated using the registration receipt that was provided after the initial registration and by uploading an amended “packet” of data to the central queue and attaching that to the original registration packet.

  • Pre-registration and scheduling appointments can save time. By allowing people to submit data and supporting documents in advance—e.g., through a web portal, with the data retrieved at the registration point using a reference number and/or barcode—and/or to schedule an appointment to have the data validated and biometrics provided can substantially reduce queues and increase convenience for the population. However, this will not necessarily help populations who have lower levels of literacy and/or no access to the internet, but such services could potentially be facilitated for these populations by local governments and civil society.

  • Express queues for people with special needs. It may be expedient for the broader exercise to provide an express lane for families with children, the elderly, people with a disability, and any other persons with special needs, if there is sufficient demand from these populations.

Hardware and Equipment

The equipment required for carrying out registration will depend on the data being collected and the anticipated environmental conditions at registration points. At a minimum, a registration kit will comprise a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone, and then with data capture devices—e.g., camera, fingerprint scanner and iris scanner—either integrated into the device, integrated into a case or connected via cables peripherally. If the kit is going to upload registrations live, then it will need to have a reliable network connection. Additional accessories such as a plain color backdrop and lighting (for facial images), a second screen (for the applicant to see the data as it is being entered), a printer (for producing registration receipts), scanners (for scanning supporting documents), and power sources (as backup or for running the registration kit in areas without electricity) may also be required. It is critical that registration equipment is durable for the conditions where they will be deployed—e.g., resistant to water and dust—and that they come with appropriate warranties, performance guarantees, and technical support.

The functional and technical design of the ID system should dictate the requirements for the registration equipment (and not vice versa), including the standards to be adopted. For example, if ten fingerprints are going to be collected then using a single or dual fingerprint capture device might require an ABIS that is permutation invariant because the fingerprints could be captured in any order, unlike a slap scanner, which captures fingerprints in groups of four, four and two). Likewise, it is important that the biometric capture equipment can capture raw images of appropriate quality and in open standard formats—e.g., the fingerprint scanner should be able to capture 500dpi images in WSQ or JPEG2000 format.

A key decision that has to be made is whether to choose registration tablets and smartphones and/or laptops/desktop computers (and, if laptop, whether the whole kit is integrated into a case or not). The use of tablets and smartphones has substantial benefits in terms of durability, mobility, reduced cost (compared to a laptop or desktop computer), and potentially longer battery life (depending on what devices are integrated into or connected to it). While biometric capture devices can be connected by cable or Bluetooth to tablets and smartphones, a growing number of these devices are entering the market with integrated fingerprint and iris capture devices, including some that have a fingerprint slap scanner rather than single or dual fingerprint capture devices. Laptops and desktop computers have an advantage in terms of having a larger screen, being able to run Windows operating system, being able to connect more devices, and having more commodity hardware options. The integration of all the devices into a tablet, smartphone or, for laptops, a case, reduces the number of “loose” equipment that could be lost, damaged or stolen, and a sturdy enclosure can also help the equipment withstand bumps, drops, water, and dust. However, integrating devices may also substantially increase the cost because fewer suppliers offer such products. Finally, while cases are convenient to set up at registration points and best protect equipment against the elements, they can take up a lot of desk space and can be heavy and bulky when moving around. Practitioners should carefully consider the technical and functional requirements—including the contexts where registration will be taking place—in order to make an informed decision with respect to the form factor(s) of registration kits.

Considering emerging innovations, procurement of registration equipment should—to the maximum extent possible—be based on functional requirements and standards rather than technical specifications. Generally, it is good practice for procurement documentation to describe functional requirements and standards rather than technical specifications to allow the market and potential bidders to develop innovative solutions to meet those requirements. For example, specifying “a DSLR camera” rather than “a camera that can produce facial images that meet ICAO Doc 9303 standards” would eliminate potentially much cheaper high definition webcams or cameras integrated into tablets and smartphones, even though they would meet the same requirement.

Registration equipment procured for an initial mass registration should be procured with a view to how they can be repurposed when demand for registration reduces. A large number of registration kits will need to be procured if a country intends to reach high levels of coverage more quickly. Once a mass registration is winding down and an ID system is reaching steady-state mode, there is an opportunity to use the surplus equipment for various purposes—e.g., using fingerprint capture devices or biometric registration tablets for authentication at points of service delivery.

Human Resources

One of the most challenging aspects of an initial mass registration is hiring, training and managing a large number of—often temporary—staff. When insourcing registration, the ID authority will need to deal with these challenges directly; when outsourcing registration, they will need to ensure that partners have sufficient capacity to do the same.

For estimating staffing numbers, each kit will need at least one staff member and—if the kits are to be operational for more than five days a week—there needs to be additional staff who will rotate. In addition, there will need to be supervisors—e.g., one per five to ten registration staff—and other staff potentially for security and crowd control.

The staff doing the actual data collection will need to have strong digital literacy and communication skills and will need substantial training on the use of the registration software and hardware and on what to do if something goes wrong—e.g., exception handling for people who cannot provide biometrics. It is good practice for training to be “live” through which the staff will practice registration of real persons and how to deal with different scenarios—e.g., when the software crashes, when fingerprints or other biometrics of adequate quality cannot be captured, and when someone does not have certain documents. Furthermore, there should be comprehensive manuals produced and provided to registration staff and supervisors.

The initial mass registration drive is an opportunity to hire and build the skills of young people. With youth unemployment rates in many countries significantly higher than the rest of the population, prioritizing them to take data collection positions can have a range of broader social and economic benefits. By providing practical experience and formal employment and developing skills in how to operate and maintain software and hardware, their employability could markedly improve. Moreover, they could potentially transition to permanent staff in an ID authority as they become familiar with the system. Malawi is an example of a country that has done this by partnering with local universities to recruit students.

When doing a geographic-based initial mass registration, it can be advantageous to hire registration staff locally. Hiring local staff—e.g., within the same region or province—can reduce travel costs but can also help if there are local languages, dialects or cultural considerations.