Accenture & UN refugee body create biometric identity

15 July 2015 3 min. read

Accenture, after a successful bid in a competitive tendering process, will be providing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees with on-going system maintenance and user training for a Biometric Identity Management System. The system was partly developed by Accenture, and aims to give some of the world’s 50 million refugees with stable – cross country – identities.

With increased global tension and widening conflict areas in Syria and Iraq, and with continued instability in sub-Saharan Africa – the plight of the world’s more than 50 million refugees continues. While two thirds of the refugees are displaced in their countries of origins, around 16 million people have fled their roots to find safe harbour. With the spectre of climate change, bringing with it the potential of traditional habitat destruction, food and water shortages and geo-political conflict, the biggest forced movement of people since world war two may not find rest and safety soon.

One issue faced by both the refugees and authorities needing to make judgements about the statues of the person before them, is that identification papers may be left behind whilst fleeing, may be lost along the way or may be confiscated by other authorities. Without identification, long term engagement with a refugee becomes considerably more difficult – especially if they are forced to keep on the move.


To deal with the issue of identification, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) implemented a pilot project in 2013 that saw a Biometric Identity Management System deployed at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi. The system allowed the agency to register 17,000 people with their biometric data, which includes the capture and storage of fingerprints, iris data and facial images of individuals, providing those who are often undocumented with their own personal identity record. After dealing with considerable logistical and infrastructure difficulties, the pilot project was proven to be successful.

The three year contract between UNHCR and Accenture will see UNHCR deploy the Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS) across UNHCR global operations. UNHCR has already started its deployment of the BIMS across its scaled up operations with refugee camp locations in Thailand and Chad where around 220,000 have already been enrolled. With plans to expand the use of BIMS further into Chad to enable the enrolment and formal identification of 450,000 people resident in more than 19 refugee camps.

Accenture - BIMS

As part of the BIMS system, Accenture developed Unique Identity Service Platform (UISP), which works in conjunction with the UNHCR’s existing case management system, linking UNHCR offices and camps around the world back to a central biometric database in Geneva.

Ger Daly, Managing Director of Accenture’s Global Public Safety Business, says: “This is a great example of how we use digital innovation to improve peoples’ lives and make a real difference in the world.  By applying emerging technologies in biometrics capture and large-scale identity matching, BIMS will help UNHCR register and identify refugees and channel the delivery of aid to those people most in need.”

“After reviewing the results of the trial in Malawi and making recommendations for improvements, we are moving forward and deploying a single global biometrics system for the agency that is fast, intuitive, secure, mobile and durable in varied and challenging environments,” adds Doug Greene, UNHCR’s Chief Information Officer.