There was a strange occurrence in the western German city of Gelsenkirchen in the summer of 2014. A Nigerian delegation in company of their German partners got visibly emotional. Bystanders would have seen that they were holding Euro notes from a local ATM. Also noticeable would have been the pride in the faces of the whole group. The reason? A Nigerian citizen had just used a German ATM using his new multi-application identity card. It was, on many levels, an outstanding moment.
It is no coincidence that this event would take place close to the headquarter of cryptovision, one of the leading providers of secure electronic identity and digital information protection solutions. Founded as a spin-off of Essen University, the company specializes in modern cryptography methods and public key infrastructures (PKI) for government authorities and private commercial sectors. cryptovision was commissioned by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) to participate in developing the EAC (Extended Access Control) standard for electronic passports and played a key role in this project.
Beyond Germany, cryptovision also has a growing influence and continues to buck the trend of the international ID market looking for alternatives to turnkey solutions by a single vendor. Especially in emerging and developing countries, governments and their agen- cies are starting to invest in national IT expertise to reduce later dependency from outside system integrators and the associated costs. Small and flexible experts, such as cryptovision, working in different consortium constellations, are able to work onsite and with the national teams to help them achieve this objective. The company has developed products that attract high international demand, such as cv act ePasslet suite, a comprehensive collection of appli- cations for sovereign electronic documents and the PKI software CAmelot. Cryptovision’s products are integrated, for example, in the eID card schemes of Rwanda and Armenia and electronic passports of Moldova and Ecuador.
And Nigeria. With over 170 million inhabitants and more than 250 ethnic groups, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. Sometimes referred to as “The Giant of Africa”, Nigeria made some rather large waves in the international ID community this summer. After several years of preparation time, the National Identity Management Commission of Nigeria (NIMC) launched the first national electronic identity card with a payment application, representing one of the most comprehensive multi-application ID deployments worldwide.
At the end of August 2014 the first residents of Nigeria received their copy of this multifunctional eID document, a contact-based (as opposed to contact-less) polycarbonate smart card, with a form factor similar to a traditional credit card. To make the card usable, a sophisticated eID infrastructure had been deployed, including registration authorities, identity management systems, and secure card production facilities. Mobile devices for enrolling, reading and even updating some data stored on the card will be added to the infrastructure components.
In the first phase, the Nigerian eID will be used for three applica- tions: as a proof of identity, for digital payment (based on the EMV standard), and for digital signature with biometrics. With this truly innovative concept, the Nigerian eID is the first national project in the world that combines eID functionality with a payment system. To facilitate financial inclusion in the country, this feature gives millions of Nigerian citizens first time access to electronic payment. In the next project phase, the functionality of the national eID card will be extended to support additional electronic applications, like driving license, health information card, tax record and voting. Other technical aspects of the Nigerian eID project are impressive as well. With full card issuance, it will represent one of the largest and most complex Public Key Infrastructures (PKI) deployed world- wide. This PKI is comprised eight certification authorities and will issue over 300 million certificates. This infrastructure is necessary to protect the eID system and the card itself from hacker attacks. The various applications that run on the Nigerian eID card have been implemented with Java Card technology. This open standards-based approach delivers a high level of transparency and independence for the customer. In addition, the modular architecture easily enables future extensions and changes. A new card profile was developed especially for the Nigerian identity card in order to support this functionality. Within this framework it was possible to implement such a large range of applications on a single smart card.
And Gelsenkirchen? Well, all aforementioned core software components (PKI, card applications, and smart card middleware) in the Nigerian eID scheme are delivered by cryptovision, acting as key part of a consortium consisting of leading technology compa- nies. “We are thrilled that our entire solution range is applied in this unique project. We are also greatly indebted to NIMC because they are not only a reliable partner, but also have the expertise and courage to implement such an innovative approach.” said Markus Hoffmeister, CEO, cryptovision.