UK biometrics firm launches ‘selfie-driven’ healthcare in Nigeria

Tim Maytom

UK-based biometrics platform SmilePass has partnered with Kwara State in Nigeria to launch a universal health insurance program aimed at helping to bring primary medical care to the rural state’s 3m citizens through the use of selfies.

Many of Nigeria’s 186m citizens live in rural environments and so access to quality primary healthcare can be challenging. The program by Kwara State and SmilePass aims to provide citizens with affordable primary healthcare that will cover 70 per cent of medical costs, and allows members to register simply by taking a selfie on their phone which will match their face to their registered medical record.

Kwara State initially investigated using fingerprint recognition technology as a biometric solution for linking individuals to their medical records. However, several trials found that the worn fingers of the largely agricultural population meant that their devices failed to accurately identify or record people. The state then turned to SmilePass.

“It has been a fascinating and rewarding program to work on,” said Grant Crow, CEO of SmilePass. “When Kwara State realised that fingerprint reading technology was not effective, they approached us to help implement our facial recognition technology.”

All 80,000 state employees are now registered using the technology, with trained field workers poised to register a further 500,000 citizens over the next 90 days in the scheme. These workers will capture citizens’ personal details as well as their facial recognition data, all of which will be registered in the database. Citizens will then be able to access essential care to improve their health, reducing poverty and increasing productivity in the area. Kwara State’s economy is heavily reliant on agriculture, so a healthier population means strong economic benefits for all.

“We were thrilled to learn that Kwara State wants every citizen to be covered by the healthcare program,” said Crow. “I’m sure it will be life-changing for many families, and it is also fantastic to see our biometric technology used for social impactful schemes.”