People ID

The authentication of people and the production of identity documents have undergone major changes in recent decades, as the intensification of human displacement, including migratory flows, calls for solutions that enable better visibility of people movement. At the same time an increasingly interconnected world is calling for solutions that authorize the automated exchange of information, not only between citizens and government authorities, but also between the authorities of different countries. Added to this is the need for states around the world to know their citizens and to organize democratic and transparent elections. These developments call for increasingly accurate and secure identity management – the main authentication challenges for governments being identity theft and counterfeiting. This in turn demands perfectly functioning IT infrastructures, and forgery-proof documents.

An offering covering the entire value chain.

Zetes has developed a comprehensive product and service offering ranging from live citizen enrolment to the issuance of identity documents. This offering, enabling states to entrust highly complex projects to a single supplier, is one of the bases of the People ID Division’s success. At the same time the offering is structured to permit implementation of a single, or selected steps in the chain. This approach allows considerable flexibility, although complete management by a single supplier permits data to flow in a closed circuit, providing additional guarantees of end-to-end security.

ABIS (Automatic Identification Biometric System) systems, which detect duplicates in databases established from voter registration operations, occupy a central place in the Group's offering. Zetes has extensive experience in the field, with more than 20 projects successfully completed within allotted budgets and deadlines.

In this way Zetes’ offering meets the needs of states and governments, for whom an accurate view of the populations residing in or passing through their territories is essential. In particular, this includes:

  • organizing democratic elections;
  • controlling migration flows;
  • administrative management;
  • human resource management (e.g. civil servants, police, military personnel).

The proposed solutions also satisfy the strict requirements of international standardization organizations such as ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) and IATA (International Air Transport Association).

A resilient model

Zetes' People ID business model is based on 'Build & Operate' (BO) and 'Build & Transfer' (BT) contracts. BO is the model of choice for government contracts for the issuance of identity and travel documents. This model proved its relevance in 2015. Although no new contract of this type was signed over the past year, revenue remained stable and the margin evolved very favourably.

Quote: "Thanks to BOT projects, People ID income remained stable in 2015 and the margin evolved very favourably. "

Build & Operate

The authorities concede the production and/or customization of these documents to Zetes for a period of 5 to 10 years or more. This enables Zetes to invest in local infrastructure, creating jobs in the country and permitting knowledge transfer. Employees are trained and benefit from Zetes' experience of bringing the new site into operation.

  • No upfront investment by governments

To determine the price per document, Zetes inventories all the elements necessary for implementing the project: buildings, security, machinery, equipment, software, services and logistics.

It also evaluates the operational costs of hiring and training operators and the cost of know-how transfer.

Zetes also bears the entire infrastructure implementation costs. Governments do not need to make any initial investment (capex). If the client requests, a BO model can be finalized at the end of the contract period by transferring to the authorities all the hardware and software components. In this case we talk of BOT (Build, Operate & Transfer). 

  • Financial strength of the integrator

To be able to offer this model, which is still relatively unique to Zetes, a company must have a sound financial footing. As a listed company, Zetes' financial management is transparent and the company has the funds to support such investments in foreign countries. It derives its income directly from the sale of e-documents to citizens. The viability of a project is determined by the length of the contract (minimum 5 years) and the estimated number of e-documents to be issued each year within the set time period.

Zetes has, to date, 9 BOT projects under way in Belgium, Israel, Portugal, Ivory Coast and Gambia.

Build & Transfer

In a BT scenario, the authorities engage Zetes to execute a project over a short period of time, usually under one year. This contract type is very common for biometric enrolment of voters, military personnel and civil servants and for ABIS-type projects.

In this model, Zetes delivers

  • hardware and software components
  • deployment
  • support and services
  • project management
  • operator training
  • technician training.

The government is usually in charge of field operations and operator payments. Unlike the BOT model, BT requires an initial investment by the government, for a service usually delivered to its citizens within a very short time frame. 

Security first for citizen data

Person identification touches on the sensitive concepts of privacy and confidentiality. It is therefore imperative to provide maximum assurances of security both in the management of data and the documents themselves.


This translates into several measures:

  • "Live enrolment": based on fixed and/or mobile kits, Zetes solutions ensure 'in one place, once only' collection of biographic and biometric information.
  • Data encryption, both during the transfer of information and by restricting access to certain data in a document to its owner only.
  • The use of advanced materials and techniques in document production and personalization to ensure their non-reproducibility.
  • Secure management of sensitive information, guaranteed by ISO 27001 and other certification.

Zetes invests continuously in this area to guarantee authorities and citizens the highest levels of data protection.

Hardware solutions

The architecture of Zetes' solutions also calls for hardware components that meet the requirements of ergonomics, deployment and, above all, security. Over the years, the company has launched:

  • mobile biometric enrolment kits, the latest version of which is more compact and lightweight, therefore making it easily deployable in harsh field conditions;
  • fixed biometric enrolment kiosks, more robust and suitable for use in airports, embassies and consulates and similar environments;
  • e-gate stations, allowing border identity checks that are both fast and secure;
  • an electronic voting solution (Secur-eVote), which makes the voting process itself impervious to manipulation.

Success built on an excellent reputation

In its home country of Belgium, Zetes manages the issuance of electronic identity cards, residence permits for foreigners, the Kids-ID, e-passports and driving licences. These successful projects in Belgium have allowed Zetes to expand throughout EMEA. Zetes has prioritized this geographical area because demand in Europe and especially in Africa is very large. It has invested significant resources in business development, knowing that sales cycles are long and require sustained effort. In addition to Belgium, Zetes is intimately involved in the electronic identity card solutions for Israel and Portugal. Zetes is strongly present in Africa, with many African states keen to set up national population registers as development policy tools. Africa's leaders have understood the value of biometrics for accurate or irrefutable authentication of their citizens.

Zetes has deployed its solutions in Togo, Burundi, Gabon, Cape Verde, Benin, Chad, Guinea-Conakry, Israel, and Sierra Leone. The company's good reputation is based on the success of these projects. This accumulation of customer references is essential to guarantee the growth of this division.

Most bids for identity and travel documents require major certification and references. Zetes is therefore well positioned to continue its advance.

Infrastructure and logistics: project management beyond technology

What are the main challenges when implementing electoral projects in Africa?

Dish Mwanza: The challenges vary greatly from one country to another. But in general, they relate principally to logistics and infrastructure, including IT infrastructure. An operation involving the deployment of thousands of registration kits across sometimes very large and difficult-to-access areas needs to be properly equipped and prepared. You also need to be ready for certain limitations on communication and able to overcome these. It is also necessary to provide technical support in case things go wrong during operations. In this way the value of our solutions goes far beyond the quality of our hardware and software, to include the ability to deploy and manage them effectively in the field.

How are operators trained?

Dish Mwanza: In electoral projects, the persons in charge of enrolment and therefore of handling the solutions are generally employed by the Electoral Commission. Their numbers can run to several thousand, depending on the size of the territory to cover. Zetes itself trains the trainers who then cascade their knowledge down to the operators on the ground.

Constituting the electoral register in Togo

In 2015, Zetes undertook the biometric enrolment, deduplication and registration of voters in Togo. This was its fourth electoral project in this country, the first dating back to 2007. The recurring nature of this collaboration reflects the climate of confidence that exists with the Togolese authorities. The good execution of the contract enabled the presidential elections to proceed as scheduled on 15 April 2015.

To strengthen its presence in the region, Zetes has opened an office in the Togo capital of Lomé. Besides the company's successful history in the country, this choice is justified by the rapid development of airline services out of Lomé, permitting easy coverage of West Africa and more widely of the entire continent. Togo is also a country where Zetes will be able to strengthen its team with experienced and technically competent executives.