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Indonesia Gov’t Assesses Facial Recognition for Welfare Distribution

The government of Indonesia has completed a trial of a biometric facial authentication system as a way of disbursing social assistance subsidies to its citizens with a reported average success rate of 85.2 percent.

Indonesian Government Assesses Facial Recognition System for Social Assistance Distribution

As The Jakarta Post reports, the purpose of the study was to test what officials in the government’s National Team for Accelerated Poverty Reduction (TNP2K) hoped would be a more cost and time efficient method of distribution when compared to the current system, which relies on a series of different cards connected to the recipient’s bank account.

Under the new system and using facial recognition technology recipients would no longer need to keep track of various cards and PIN/password credentials to use their benefits. They would simply scan their face at a designated merchant in order to authenticate their identity.

“Facial recognition technology can be used for all citizens, even in rural areas,” said Elan Satriawan, TNP2K policy working group head, adding that the biometric data could be obtained via the Home Ministry’s existing digital ID card (“e-KTP”) database.

According to Satriawan, the cost of maintaining the current card-based system had grown to nearly $67.5 million due to the upkeep of the electronic data capture (EDC) machines, as well as the cost of producing and distributing the cards.

“We received feedback that people find it hard to keep their social aid cards or remember their PIN, so [the facial recognition verification] is a simpler solution that I believe people can adapt to quickly,” he said.

However, there is some concern that the facial recognition method may prove to be less inclusive due to the low internet saturation and internet literacy rates in the country — an issue that has been debated recently due to the use of online platforms to distribute COVID-19 relief — and present a challenge for the ministry to reach underprivileged people living in remote areas.

“Even though the cards are currently considered the most accessible and inclusive method for disbursing aid, the government needs to collaborate with fintech service providers to innovate and reach more people,” said Social Affairs Ministry technology and social welfare expert staff member Andi ZA Dulung during the same discussion.

Another challenge the government ministry faces is in the integration and storing of the biometric data they collect, due mainly to outdated infrastructure, and the fact that each ministry currently has its own, seperate database.

Source: The Jakarta Post

May 25, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis

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