Abu Dhabi: The UAE has built its national population register which is the world’s largest civil biometric database, a senior official said on Monday.

“The UAE population register system, the wold’s largest civil biometric database, was completed by the end of last year,” Dr Ali Al Khoury, director general of the Emirates Identity Authority, told the sixth ID World Abu Dhabi being held at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.

The two-day summit tackles the ICT challenges in modern society, bringing together high-level international government representatives and leading players in security, mobility and traceability.

Dr Al Khoury said on the sidelines of the World ID Summit that the UAE’s biometric database had a total of around 140 million fingerprints, palm and hand prints, facial prints and digital signatures which belonged to citizens and residents from more than 206 nationalities, but declined to disclose the population census figure or whether any other official assessment of the country’s population was accurate.

The National Bureau of Statistics has put the UAE’s population at nearly 8.2 million at the end of 2010 with Emiratis making up only 11.47 per cent, while the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s estimates put the population at 7.2 million at the end of 2011 and the figure was projected to grow by around 5.6 per cent to 7.6 million at the end of last year.

Neither of the official authorities gave any reason for the discrepancy in their estimates. A breakdown by the Bureau showed expatriates stood at nearly 7.316 million, accounting for around 88.5 per cent of the country’s total population.

The Bureau’s report showed Emiratis were estimated at 947,997, nearly 11.5 per cent of the total, making the UAE — among the Gulf countries — with the lowest proportion of nationals to the overall population.

Dr Al Khoury said it was anticipated that the database of inhabitants’ biometrics will contribute and support projects related to the UAE’s national vision 2021. “This is aimed at enhancing security and supporting e-government projects through authenticating personal identity in e-transactions conducted over the internet,” he said.

The Emirates Identity Authority, Dr Al Khoury added, was founded in September o2004 and has completed this sophisticated population register system to provides unique identification and secured verification for every citizen or resident in UAE by giving them unique personal numbers linked to his/her biometric characteristics such as fingerprints.

“Having completed its digital infrastructure, the Emirates ID and 15 government authorities in six sectors, mainly education, health, labour, interior and justice have agreed on infrastructure necessary for e-linking. We plan to complete linking to the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Justice during this year. It is also planned that the ID card replaces the e-signature card held by Public Relation Officers dealing with the Labour Ministry this year,” Dr Al Khoury said.

He added the ID card was widely accepted by up to 200 authorities nowadays.

Dr Al Khoury said the newly used technology in the Population Register System helps use the latest methods of protecting data and information in addition to providing a safer environment to identify and verify the identity of the individual, achieve linkage and integration with the various government and semi- government authorities, provide statistical information in support of planning and decision-making, provide a solid infrastructure for the e-government project, upgrade and ease of the governmental services level and eliminate forgery.

Leveraging biometric technology for law enforcement

Steven M. Martinez, director of the FBI Science and Technology Branch, told the World ID Summit the FBI had long been a leader in leveraging biometric technologies for law enforcement, using various forms of biometric identification since assuming responsibility for managing the national fingerprint collection in 1924.

“Over the years, biometrics have been incredibly useful to the FBI and its partners in the law enforcement and intelligence communities — not only to authenticate an individual’s identity but, more importantly, to figure out who someone is by a fingerprint left on a murder weapon or a bomb, for example, typically by scanning a database of records for a match,” Martinez said.

He added that more recently, the Bureau’s Science and Technology Branch created the Biometric Centre of Excellence (BCOE) to strengthen the FBI’s ability to combat crime and terrorism with state-of-the-art biometrics technology.

In addition to the BCOE, the Criminal Justice Information Services Division — with its vast repositories of biometric and biographical data — is the FBI’s natural focus for identity management activities.

Driven by advances in technology, customer requirements and growing demand for Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) services, the FBI has been developing and deploying the Next Generation Identification (NGI) System.

This system further advances the FBI’s biometric identification and investigation services, providing an incremental replacement of current IAFIS technical capabilities, while introducing new functionality.

The NGI system offers state-of-the-art biometric identification and investigative services and provides a flexible framework of core capabilities that serve as a platform for multimodal functionality. Additionally, other important biometrics-related work is being undertaken by the FBI Laboratory, such as DNA activities, while voice and face recognition initiatives are being pursued by the Operational Technology Division.