Lagos e-geographic system will capture all home addresses — LASRRA GM

The Managing Director of the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency, Mrs. Ibilola Kasunmu, in this interview with VICTOR AYENI, explains the benefits of one of the agency’s initiatives, the smart ID card residents of Lagos

You were deployed as the Managing Director of the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency in 2019. What projects have you started so far?

The main project is the new smart ID card for Lagos residents. As of 2019, what used to be issued was the regular plastic ID card, so we just took it a step further by issuing smart ID cards.

It comes with payment capabilities, so it comes with a wallet account. Some of your features, bio data and biometric data are also stored on the card. And it’s a versatile card that can serve 28 different purposes, so it’s the new initiative that has grown since I took over the office.

At the recent inauguration of the Lagos ID smart card, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu revealed that approximately 6.5 million residents have registered out of the estimated over 22 million inhabitants of the State. Why is this so?

This is probably due to the lack of information available, so we know we need to step up our advocacy activities. We have also experienced some setbacks, such as during COVID-19. We were unable to register anyone because of the physical contact involved in registration. We had to slow down registrations and our offices were also closed for the two-year period, so we just resumed.

Otherwise, we should have accelerated the process now. It’s basically for us to go to the nooks and crannies of the state to do this registration in all the communities, even those that are on the outskirts of Lagos.

The huge population of Lagos State and the influx of undocumented immigrants have raised security concerns. Has the state developed a resident database to document citizen data?

Yes, that’s what LASRRA was created for. This is our main mandate. LASRRA has been organized and commissioned to create a database that can be updated – a database that is not static – through which every day we continue to add resident information to this database. That’s what we have right now, and that’s where we’ve stored data for the over 6.5 million residents that we have right now. So we have a database.

There are several countries where electronic residence cards are used by citizens, such as South Africa, Brazil, Estonia and Georgia. These are countries where electricity and internet connection are stable, and security guards have access to their database there. Can this be replicated in Lagos State?

Yes, that is what we are working towards. We want to provide security, even though security is not part of my mandate, but what I have is a database. It is accessible and can be integrated with any technology that will require resident validation or verification.

And that’s why we took it a step further when we were developing the card where we stored critical information about the chip that’s on the card so you don’t need electricity or the internet to fetch information for you. Certain information essential to your identification and validation is stored on the card and can be used offline.

We kept in mind our limitations in our country, and that’s why we developed a card that can work both online and offline. The electronic ID card is also a work in progress and we hope that before the end of the year it will also be launched, so we will have a virtual version of the card.

Will LASRRA work with security agencies to track criminals and non-state actors fomenting unrest in the state?

As I said, it’s not my mandate, but my database is available for people to verify their identity with us. So if you’re required to validate people’s identities, you can actually access my database. It is available for any platform to use the information in it.

Some residents have complained that the time of registration falls during their working hours and others claim that LASRRA officers are absent when they go to register. What has been done about it?

We actually write to corporations asking if they require us to come and check in on their staff so that they don’t have to take the time out to check in. We can bring them the registration.

We also have mobile agents and registration partners that travel. So we do that on a daily basis as they travel through the communities in Lagos. We go to the office. People can write to us and we will get back to them and arrange a date convenient for them so that we can come in and register all staff. Some of our listing partners work Saturdays, and some even work Sundays.

So most Sundays we visit churches. A lot of residents’ associations have meetings on Sundays where they invite us in because that’s a time when a lot of people are at home expecting us to be in the area where they live and doing the registration. We are therefore looking for people who will do the registration who do not work close to home so that they can actually register. Or we can go to them once they give us notice or request our presence.

Do you think the government’s target of registering 10 million Lagos residents by December 2022 is achievable, given the indigent and rural residents who are not educated enough to navigate modern technology?

As I said, we have mobile partners and agents. We have about 16 registration partners who travel, even in the riverside communities. We were in a riverside community a few months ago, and we visited six of them to check in. So we are working on it. We’re going to start aggressive advocacy where we’re going to market places.

We work with Community Development Associations and Committees and Community Development Associations that are closest to the people of these grassroots areas in Lagos so that we can notify people of registration and have access to them. We will continue with these until we cover all of Lagos.

What difficulties did you encounter on this project?

The fundamental challenge is the global decline, where the cost of production has increased. You know, we started re-engineering this project in 2019, before COVID-19. Many things are no longer available now with the COVID-19 effect, which is an overall effect on production cost, materials, and time taken. There is a shortage of resources and chip modules now, and we need chips to produce the boards, so this was a major setback for us.

Inflation, exchange rates and other factors have affected production and created a setback in our deliveries. People don’t like to talk about COVID-19, but it’s affected a lot of things in the world.

People often tend to provide inaccurate information when registering and there may be instances where people’s home addresses are not correctly located on a virtual map. How to solve this problem ?

Right now, I don’t believe anyone can be located on a virtual map. Once you have an address, Google takes care of it, so I think every address is mapped right now. For those without an address, of course, it’s Lagos and not everyone lives in a house where there are four walls and a door. What we do is work with community leaders, CDCs and CDAs in these areas.

We know that there is no one who is not identifiable within a community, so we work with them. There is a template that they will complete and they will need to be approved by community leaders and those who have been appointed and designated to sign on their behalf in their areas; they will identify the residents.

I believe every address is in our Global Positioning System and we are working on an Electronic Geographic Information System project in Lagos State where every unique address will be displayed from the streets to the resident’s doorstep. It’s all audio-tagged now, so we’ll be able to ride this project when it comes to life.

Currently we rely on Google so when you enter your address it shows us every street with the same name in other areas. I think we captured at least 98% of the streets in Lagos.

What is the next initiative the agency is working on after the Lag ID card?

The Lag ID card is a smart card with a chip with 28 applets, which has the ability to provide 28 different services. At the moment we have activated the payment service so that the card can be used at any ATM or point of sale to withdraw or pay. It can also be used online.

The second applet is the identity applet and the third is the transport applet. The card can be used in place of a cowrie card and is accepted on all transport services in Lagos State. There are 25 other applets, so the next move now is to pilot use cases for them.

We are currently working with the Lagos State Health Management Agency so that residents can now use the Lag ID card to access the state health insurance scheme and health facilities. We are also working with the pensions office, so that pensioners do not need another card to be identified. We will continue until all 25 applets are exhausted.

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