By Michael Kachitsa
Charlette N’Guessan is the first woman to win the prestigious prize since it was established in 2014, and the first winner from Ghana. The prize was awarded for BACE API, which uses facial recognition to verify identities remotely.
N’Guessan and her team decided to go ahead with the project in 2018, after they discovered that Ghanaian banks have a significant problem with identity fraud and cybercrime. Their research estimated that approximately $400m is spent every year by Ghanaian financial institutions to identify their customers.
“Online identity fraud is a huge problem, especially in Africa, because the growth of online businesses and the enthusiastic embracing of new technologies on the continent have not been matched by an equivalent commitment to cybersecurity,” N’Guessan told E&T. “As software engineers and data scientists, we wanted to bring our contribution by building a solution that can help people to feel safe while using online services across Africa. Since day one, the goal has always been the same: fight against online identity fraud.”
BACE API is aimed at financial institutions and other industries which rely on identify verification when offering services. In partnership with a data controller which deals with government-issued ID, it has access to Ghanaian passports and other documentation which it uses during its verification process.
The software uses a phone or computer’s built-in camera and requires no specialised hardware. BACE API uses live images or short videos taken on cameras to detect whether the image is of a real person or a photo of an existing image.
It is already being used by two financial institutions to verify customers’ identities, and being tested on an event platform to confirm registration of attendees. During the coronavirus pandemic, it has emerged as a viable alternative to in-person identify verification processes used by most businesses, allowing them to authenticate new customers without ever meeting face-to-face.