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Inspired Build Unified Identity: Why Mobile is the key to unlocking Nigeria’s data potential

With a bit more strategic thinking and planning, this exercise could have been conducted with the same approach as the Banker’s Verification Number (BVN) exercise and in this case would have produced what I call a Mobile Verification Number (MVN).

Considering that the current BVN database size is just over 31 million, it is obvious that the MVN represents a much larger sample set and is in actual fact a superset of the BVN database, since we can safely assume that every bank account holder has a registered phone number.

The logical conclusion of this is that if we had a consistent, verified Mobile Verification Number system, the entire BVN exercise with its associated costs would have been unnecessary. All that would have been required was to get all bank account holders to VERIFY and LINK their bank accounts with the existing biometric identities as captured in the MVN database.

Better late than never

So, maybe the NCC didn’t get that one right, but it is not too late. Advanced deduplication technology is available to merge and harmonise the disparate biometric data from all the various GSM and telecoms providers into one consolidated database. Indeed, this deduplication technology was applied successfully to remove identical records during the voter’s registration process for the 2015 elections, and will be also be used by the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission towards the 2018 elections.

If the NCC, in collaboration with National Identity Management Commission, can succeed in producing consolidated biometric identities, each of which we can describe with a unique Mobile Verification Number (MVN), then this can form a ‘master’ National Identity Management base-line, within which the BVN can either become a single data field, or be replaced by the MVN and become obsolete.

Registration/application for all other identity related documents like the International Passport, driver’s license, voters card or national identity card would be verified against the master database simply by placing fingers on a fingerprint scanner.


The benefits of a consolidated, ‘living, breathing’ identity management system for the Nigerian economy are innumerable: Everything from government social intervention schemes, universal healthcare, access credit, national security, law enforcement, the electoral process and pretty much every aspect of the economy is dependent on an efficient Identity Management System.

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