PLEASE NOTE: THIS ISSUE IS NOW RESOLVED AND THE BACKLOG HAS BEEN HANDLED.The South African Police Service’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) has reportedly crashed, as cited by Die Burger. On Thursday, 6 December 2018, SAPS had more than 30,000 unprocessed claims that were backlogged on the system, and it unfortunately does not look like there will be an improvement or solution any time soon.
All provincial and national courts have been briefed on the SAPS issue, which means that forensic tests cannot be processed at this time. Naturally, the forensic department’s contract with their system service provider has also been cancelled.
At the moment, there is absolutely no indication of when the contract will be reinstated or when AFIS can be expected to go live again. This is a very serious concern since the system is an integral part of many police services like background checks, the analysis if fingerprints at crime scenes, and of course, applications for police clearance certificates.
Apparently, the issue is further complicated by continual power outages at the State Information Technology Agency’s (SITA) Pretoria offices.
Can South African citizens expect an implementation of new technology at SAPS?
In May 2018, Malusi Gigaba, former minister of Home Affairs, announced the expected launch of a new Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS). It was revealed that the ABIS system would offer a comprehensive, easy-to-use report on all South African citizens that would include their life cycle and any status changes. Gigaba also mentioned that the new system would utilise a sustainable technology as its power source.
According to Home Affairs, the ABIS will become the core of the National Identification System (HANIS) and will make it easier to consolidate the data of South African nationals (as well as that of foreign nationals) into a single database.
Home Affairs said: “The grand plan seeks to integrate HANIS and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) into an automated system through ABIS with the capability to identify and verify people through fingerprints, facial recognition, and IRIS technology.”
When looking at the Department of Home Affairs’ 2018/2019 Annual Performance Plan, South African citizens can expect AFIS data migration into the ABIS system to be completed by the end of the 2018/19 financial year. It seems like we can expect iris and palm-print recognition technology to be implemented by the start of the 2019/20 financial year.