Year in Review 2017: Smartmatic’s Samira Saba on the Rise of Biometric Elections

Year in Review 2017: Smartmatic's Samira Saba on the Rise of Biometric ElectionsHeadquartered in London, Smartmatic is a specialist in digital elections technology with offices across the globe. True to form, 2017 saw the company bringing its biometric technology to a diverse range of clients across Sierra Leone, Armenia, Estonia, and Argentina.

In her interview with FindBiometrics, Smartmatic Integrated Communications Director Samira Saba starts things off with a detailed overview of those projects, and proceeds to outline the growing enthusiasm for biometric election administration more broadly. Saba concludes on a note of optimism as mass market devices continue to familiarize consumers with biometric technology, pointing the way to wider adoption of biometric tech in elections to come.

Read our full interview with Samira Saba, Integrated Communications Director, Smartmatic:


What are the biggest highlights for your organization from the past year?

Samira Saba, Integrated Communications Director, Smartmatic: 2017 found us in Sierra Leone working alongside the National Civil Registration Authority and the National Electoral Commission to create a new civil registry and a voter database. Having gathered biometric and biographic information from some 7 million citizens, authorities now have a technology-enabled platform to foster social inclusion and effective government planning.

In April, we helped the election commission of Armenia to use biometrics to register and authenticate some 1.5 million voters during its parliamentary elections. We are proud that the technology was lauded by the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) as a “useful tool for building confidence in the integrity of Election Day proceedings”.

October was quite a busy month for us. On the 15th, Estonia set a new record for online participation when 31 percent of voters participated remotely using a solution created by the Smartmatic and Cybernetica Center of Excellence for Internet Voting. And one week later, on October 22, the National Election Chamber of Argentina used our biometric technology to validate the identity of voters in six provinces of the north and in parts of Buenos Aires during the elections. Voter impersonation in the Northern provinces of Argentina has been a historic concern for election authorities. This is why the project and the technology received accolades from voters, poll workers and other stakeholders.

What, in your opinion, was the defining trend for the biometrics industry as a whole in 2017?

Smartmatic: We believe 2017 set an important milestone in the consolidation of biometrics as a standard practice in election administration.

For years we have known that a legitimate election starts with a clean, robust and easy-to-manage voter database. Given the positive deployments experienced around the world recently, most experts seem to agree with us.

According to a study published by International IDEA in June of 2017, 35 percent of over 130 countries surveyed were capturing biometric data as part of their voter registration process.

What excites you most about the year to come in biometrics?

Smartmatic: Innovation often times is confronted with fear and skepticism. However with the growing use of face recognition in smartphones and other devices, we believe many opportunities for our online voting solution will open.

Last year we launched TIVI, the first voting system in which voters are authenticated with a selfie. We are excited that the widespread adoption of face recognition will reduce frictions, enabling election authorities to implement a technology that streamlines one key process of elections, while enfranchising the millions of voters who live abroad, or simply do not have the time or resources to head to a poll station to cast a ballot.     

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Stay posted to FindBiometrics in the coming weeks to see more year-end reflections and predictions from the biggest names in biometrics.

The 15th Annual FindBiometrics Year in Review is brought to you by Leidos.