U.N. agencies tracking displaced persons are increasingly using biometric registration to provide real-time data, limit paperwork, and improve efficiency. Biometrics can help better target aid, particularly in conflict areas, where personal identification systems are weak.

For the moment, however, different agencies often rely on different systems, risking overlap and duplication. In northeastern Nigeria, for example, both the International Organization for Migration and the World Food Programme are registering the displaced in areas impacted by Boko Haram. The two agencies have deployed biometrics in geographically separated locations to avoid duplication, although overlaps are still possible due to the highly mobile nature of IDPs in the region.

IOM and WFP are working to create interoperability, but the situation is indicative of the challenges that aid agencies and NGOs increasingly face as they digitalize. While meant to improve inefficiencies, incompatible systems that cannot communicate with one another can instead lead to new headaches.


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