Identity is an enduring social and political issue. By binding an authority and privilege to a specific individual, biometrics enables a new focus on the protection of identity, authority, privilege and privacy. We all have only one true identity, and this identity must be protected in a thoughtful, balanced and efficient manner. With biometrics, the Thai government can determine who claims these powers and privileges.

The scope of government projects can magnify a small error rate to significant figures which makes the reliability of biometric technology an important factor, especially in unattended environments.

In spite of pandemic-related restrictions still severely hampering global travel, the kingdom of Thailand is moving ahead with its major migration towards biometric identification for its 70 million citizens, accepting 15 million e-passports from the DGM Consortium.

DGM Consortium member Thales officially has handed over the full consignment of e-passports to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) since last year August 5th 2020.

The move is part of the country’s wider Thailand 4.0 initiative — an effort that the government is making to not only gain technological capabilities to support residents but also involves a series of programs to help companies in the country accelerate their journey to digital.

As a result, the country is beginning to get a lot of attention from commercial giants from across the world — like the French aerospace giant Thales — who are looking for big-ticket investments opportunities.

The hi-tech security measures bring the new Thai e-passports in line with the highest security standards recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and Thales has been working with local experts to facilitate knowledge transfer, training, and upskilling for more than 500 Thai nationals, empowering them with essential technical skills that will be useful in contributing to the local digital economy. Massimo Marinzi, country director of Thales Thailand, said the group has developed some of the world’s most sophisticated e-passports that support governments’ efforts in the use of biometrics to ensure quick and secure cross-border movement.

In July, MOFA indicated iris data would be required for applicants of new passports in addition to fingerprints and facial images. This data would be part of the identity verification process in the future, the ministry said.

MOFA has progressed during the pandemic quarantine months to ensure delivery of all 15 million biometric e-passports on order. The urgency had increased after Thai immigration officials spotted eight fake passports in the first three days after implementing a new biometric screening system last fall.

Biometric identification based on modalities like facial, fingerprint, and iris recognition is increasingly being used to enhance security at airports. The global e-passport market is expected to take off in the next few years, with market research from Technavio forecasting a nearly US$24 billion jump in demand for biometric passports by 2023.

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