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Proof positive – using biometrics to build better communities


In asymmetric warfare or humanitarian aid missions, military and NGO personnel work among local populations and need a confident means of accurately identifying the target group that they’re going to be working with.

We have carried out work in a southern African country that is in the process of building some of the infrastructures the developed world takes for granted, such as police, the military and correction facilities. It’s a fledgling society, with some men turning up to be police officers who are already registered as soldiers. In these environments, biometrics identify people to enable authorities to best work with the local communities to create the new core infrastructures.

HRS’s support of the British military in Iraq is proof positive of the human side to the military application of biometric systems. As part of the operation to win hearts and minds, the British army endeavoured to employ local plumbers, electricians and other trades people. As these trades people carried no form of identity, the military used our biometric systems on bases to ensure the right people were getting access. These identities were checked against a database to ensure these people had no adverse history in interacting with the troops, building confidence and removing distrust.

A lot of people think it’s just about weeding out the bad guys, but it’s not – it is about so much more. It’s about identifying the good guys, it’s about identifying the neutral guys – it’s about giving users confidence that they know the community of people that they’re working with, either because they’re giving them aid or tokens for food, or they’re trying to protect a community from an organisation that is trying to infiltrate it and embed themselves.

Biometric systems have helped establish the very basic human right of identity in difficult circumstances, helping to build better communities.


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