The United Arab Emirates launches a facial ID app for citizens to get government services.

Published on April 17, 2021

The United Arab Emirates has launched a biometric facial and fingerprint recognition technology to build its citizens’ first secure digital national identity project. Using the face print technology facilitates the registration process in the digital identification app – UAE Pass – so citizens and businesses don’t need to visit government centers to get the services they need.

The UAE is one of the first governments worldwide to adopt this kind of technology. The main goal is to facilitate citizens’ lives and provide a fast and efficient way to get digital government services. So far, the number of registered digital IDs has reached more than 1.38 million, out of which 628,000 have verified accounts.

The chief of government services at the UAE government, Mohamed bin Taliah, said that the adoption of advanced concepts, proactive services, and tools that facilitate all citizens’ lives reflects the sustainable approach of the UAE government. And it also embodies the directives of UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum to adopt services that exceed customers’ expectations.

How facial ID works?

Facial ID is the process of identifying or verifying the identity of an individual using their face. It gets, analyzes, and compares patterns based on an individual’s facial traits. It includes three main processes: 

  1. Face detection is an essential process in detecting and locating human faces in images or videos.
  2. Face capture is a process that transforms analog information (a face) into a set of digital information (data) based on facial features.
  3. And the third process, the face match, verifies if two faces belong to the same individual.

Why facial ID recognition? 

Facial biometrics remains the preferred biometric benchmark. That’s because it is easy to implement and deploy as there is no need for physical interaction with the end-user. Furthermore, face detection and face match processes for verification/identification are fast.

The benefits of facial recognition systems are very evident. Here are some of them:

  • Facial recognition can be used when issuing identity documents. Also, combined with another biometric technology like fingerprints can prevent identity theft and ID fraud. 
  • Face match can be used at border checks to compare the portrait on a digitized biometric passport with the holder’s face. 
  •  Face biometrics can also be leveraged in police checks. 
  • And last but not least, faster and better digital public services. 

How to get one in the UAE?

Registering used to require users to spend about 20 minutes at government service centers because they needed to get their fingerprints scanned to finish the registration process. But thanks to a biometric facial recognition technology upgrade, that’s not needed anymore.

Now, all an individual needs to do is download the UAE Pass app, enter their ID details, look into a camera when prompted, and not smile. After that, the process is done, and a unique PIN is generated in just a few minutes. With the UAE Pass app, citizens no longer have to create separate login credentials for every government app. They can use their UAE Pass to access 6,000 services provided by 130 federal and local authorities.

How does the app work?

The UAE Pass app is essentially a single digital identity for citizens. Anyone can use it as an identification tool when accessing any government service via apps.

The UAE Pass app gives all the citizens access to public services offered via apps without creating accounts for all of them. Citizens can sign in by clicking on ‘login’ on any government app, select ‘sign in with UAE pass’ and enter their UAE Pass PIN. After that, they are in! They can use it in all the apps they need, like Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Federal Authority of Identity and Citizenship, and more.


About the Author

Mohammad J Sear is focused on bringing purpose to digital in government.

He has obtained his leadership training from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA and holds an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK.

After a successful 12+ years career in the UK government during the premiership of three Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, Mohammad moved to the private sector and has now for 20+ years been advising government organizations in the UK, Middle East, Australasia and South Asia on strategic challenges and digital transformation.

He is currently working for Ernst & Young (EY) and leading the Digital Government practice efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and is also a Digital Government and Innovation lecturer at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, France.

As a thought-leader some of the articles he has authored include: “Digital is great but exclusion isn’t – make data work for driving better digital inclusion” published in Harvard Business Review, “Holistic Digital Government” published in the MIT Technology Review, “Want To Make Citizens Happy – Put Experience First” published in Forbes Middle East.

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FRIDAY, 30 JUNE 2022