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

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The Lagos State Residents Registration Agency General Manager, Mrs Ibilola Kasunmu, in this interview with our correspondent, explains the benefits of one of the agency’s initiatives, the smart Lagos residents’ identification card

You were deployed as the General Manager of the Lagos State Residents’ Registration Agency in 2019.  What are the projects you have initiated so far?

The main project is the new smart Lagos resident’s identification card. Coming onboard in 2019, what was being issued prior to then was the regular plastic identity card, so we have just taken it a step further where we are issuing smart ID cards.

It comes with payment capabilities, so it comes with a wallet account. It also has some of your features, bio data, and biometrics stored on the card as well. And it is a multipurpose card that can serve 28 different purposes, so that is the new initiative that has developed since my resumption at the office.

During the recent inauguration of the Lagos identification smartcard, it was disclosed by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu that about 6.5 million residents have registered out of the over 22 million estimated population of the state. Why is this so?

This has probably been due to the inadequate information out there, so we know we need to ramp up on advocacy. We have also had a few setbacks, like during COVID-19. We could not register anybody because of the physical contact involved in registration. We had to slow down on registration and our offices were also shut down for the two-year period, so we just resumed.

Otherwise, we should have ramped up the process by now.  It is basically for us to go into the nooks and crannies of the state to carry out this registration in all communities, even the ones that are on the outskirts of Lagos.

The huge population of Lagos State and the influx of undocumented immigrants have been of security concern. Has the state developed a residents’ database to document citizens’ data?

Yes, that was what LASRRA was created for. That is our main mandate. LASRRA was organised and mandated to create a database that can be updated—one that is not static—through which every day, we keep on adding residents’ information onto that database. That is what we have right now and that is where we have stored the over 6.5 million residents’ data that we have right now. So we do have a database.

There are several countries where e-residency cards are used by citizens, like South Africa, Brazil, Estonia, and Georgia. These are countries where there is stable electricity and internet connection, and security operatives there have access to their database.  Can this be replicated in Lagos State?

Yes, that is what we are working towards. We want to ensure security, although security is not part of my mandate, but what I have is a database. It can be accessed and it can be integrated with any of the technologies that will require validation or verification of the residents.

And that is why we have gone a step further when we were developing the card where we have stored some critical information on the chip that is on the card so that you do not require electricity or the internet to go and fetch any information for you. Certain information that is critical to your identification and validation is stored on the card and can be used offline.

We have kept in mind our limitations in our country, and that is why we have developed a card that can work online as well as offline. The e-identification card as well is a work in progress and we are hoping that before the end of the year, that will be launched as well, so we will have a virtual version of the card.

Will the LASRRA work with security agencies to track criminals and non-state actors who foment trouble in the state?

Like I said, that is not my mandate, but my database is available for people to verify identities with us. So if you are required to actually validate people’s identities, you can actually have access to my database. It is available for any platform to utilise the information on it.

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

We are actually writing to corporate bodies where we are asking them if they require us to come in to register their staff members so that their staff members don’t actually need to take time out to go out to perform the registration. We can take the registration to them.

We also have mobile agents and enrolment partners that are moving around. So we do this on a daily basis where they are moving around the communities in Lagos. We go to the office. People can write to us and we will respond and fix a date that is convenient for them for us to come in and register all the staff. Some of our enrolment partners work on Saturdays, and some even work on Sundays.

So on most Sundays, we visit churches. A lot of residents’ associations have meetings on Sundays where they invite us because it is a time when a lot of people are at home and expect us to be around the area where they live and carry out the registration. So we are looking for people that will carry out the registration who don’t work close to where they live so they can actually get registered. Or we can go to them once they give us notice or request our presence.

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

Like I said, we have partners and mobile agents. We have about 16 enrolment partners that move around, even in riverine communities. We were in a riverine community a couple of months ago, and we have visited six of them to conduct registration. So, we are working towards it. We are going to start aggressive advocacy where we are going to go into the market places.

We are working with associations and community development committees and community development associations that are closest to the residents in those grassroots areas in Lagos so that we can let the people know about the registration and we have access to them. We will continue with these until we cover the whole of Lagos.

What are the challenges you have encountered on this project?

The basic challenge is the global setback, where the cost of production has increased. You know, we started the re-engineering of this project in 2019, before COVID-19. A lot of things are unavailable now with the COVID-19 effect, which is a global effect on the cost of production, materials, and time taken. There is a scarcity of resources and chip modules now, and we need chips to produce the cards, so that has been a major setback for us.

Inflation, exchange rates, and other things have affected production and created a setback in our delivery. People don’t like to talk about COVID-19, but it has affected a lot of things globally.

There is often a tendency for people to supply inaccurate information during registration and there can be instances where people’s home addresses are not properly located on a virtual map. How can this be tackled?

Right now, I don’t believe anybody can’t be located on a virtual map. Once you have an address, Google has taken care of that, so I believe every single address is mapped right now. For those that don’t have addresses, of course, this is Lagos and not everybody lives in a home where there are four walls and a door. What we do is work with community leaders, the CDCs and CDAs in these areas.

We know that there is nobody that is not identifiable within a community, so we are working with them. There is a template which they will fill out and they will have to be endorsed by the community leaders and those that have been nominated 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 e-Geographic Information System project in Lagos State where every single address will be shown from the streets right down to the resident’s door. Everything is audio marked now, so we will be able to ride on that project when it comes to life.

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

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

The Lag ID card is a smartcard that has a chip with 28 applets, which has the capacity to provide 28 different services. Right now, we have the payment service activated such that the card can be used on any ATM or point of sale machine 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 cowry card and is accepted on all Lagos State transportation services. There are 25 other applets, so the next initiative now is to drive use cases for them.

We are now 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 pension office as well, so that pensioners won’t need another card in order to be identified. We will continue until all the 25 applets are used up.

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