Tokyo, 6 June 2019 – Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, NEC Corporation, and Simprints Technology Ltd. have signed a memorandum of understanding on the use of biometrics to improve immunisation coverage in developing countries.
Despite enormous progress over the past two decades, there are still approximately 20 million children who do not receive a basic course of vaccines worldwide, leaving them exposed to some of the world’s deadliest diseases.
One key cause is the fact that only half of all children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa are currently registered at birth, leaving many without an official identity. This makes it difficult for health practitioners to ensure these infants get the vaccines they need at the right time.
Guided by Gavi’s experience and expertise in immunisation, this new project will combine Simprints’ biometric fingerprint technology and NEC’s reinforced authentication engine to help create digital identities for children 1-5 years of age and boost immunisation coverage in developing countries.
This new partnership will deploy the world’s first scalable fingerprint identification solution to give children aged 1-5 a digital ID linked to an accurate, complete medical record. All biometric records will be stored securely by Simprints, a UK-based non-profit social enterprise, after caregivers give informed consent to having their children’s biometric data taken.
Implementing this plan with conventional extraction and matching engines would be very challenging, since young children’s fingerprints tend to be blurred due to their softness. NEC's fingerprint authentication engine has overcome this issue, with optimisation for infant fingerprints and the use of fingerprint images taken with Simprints scanners. This combination has resulted in highly accurate authentication, with a certification rate of 99%.
The three partners will begin carrying out proof of concept validation of the technology in Bangladesh and an African country by early 2020. If successful, the project will then progress to linking children’s digital identity with their vaccination record, helping health practitioners to track which children need to be vaccinated and when.
This initiative helps to promote the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations, particularly Goal 3 of ensuring healthy lives for all people of all ages and promoting well-being. This includes provision 3.8 for achieving universal health coverage (UHC), including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.
“We are in the middle of a global identity crisis: right now there are millions of children, mainly in Africa, without any form of official birth registration, let alone a medical record,” said Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Gavi Board Chair. “This lack of good data makes it extremely hard to give the hardest to reach access to vital healthcare, including vaccines. That’s why this partnership is so exciting, bringing together cutting edge technology and Gavi’s know-how to help protect children in developing countries from some of the world’s deadliest diseases.”
“NEC is pleased to contribute to Gavi's activities around the world through the application of its fingerprint authentication technologies,” said Nobuhiro Endo, Chairman of the Board, NEC Corporation. “NEC aims to realise a safe, secure, efficient and equal society by providing a variety of services based on its ‘Bio-Idiom’ portfolio of biometric identification solutions.”
“Partnering with Gavi and NEC, Simprints is thrilled by this opportunity to leverage biometrics to help reach millions of the most vulnerable children worldwide with life-saving vaccinations,” said Toby Norman, Co-founder and CEO, Simprints Technology Ltd. “Simprints’ mission is to transform the way the world fights global poverty, building technology to radically increase transparency and effectiveness in global development and ensuring that every vaccine, every dollar, every public good reaches the people who need them most.”
“We welcome NEC's participation in Gavi's activities, which are leading immunisation support in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), by providing fingerprint recognition engines as a Japan-originated innovation,” said Masahiko Kiya, Deputy Assistant Minister for Global Issues and Ambassador for Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. “We hope that the three partners will demonstrate the effectiveness of innovation in healthcare and also contribute to the development of LMIC, by assisting them in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and “no one is left behind”, through utilisation of innovation, which includes not only vaccines but also a variety of healthcare services.”
Simprints is a nonprofit technology startup from the University of Cambridge building biometrics for beneficiary identification in developing countries.
Notes to editors
About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 760 million children – and prevented more than 13 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation and reaching the unvaccinated children still being left behind, employing innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency. Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organizations that fund Gavi’s work here.