iProov works in partnership with a number of technology companies around the world. WorldReach Software, based in Canada, is a world leader in government travel and citizen services. We asked Jon Payne, Executive Director, Global Partnerships at WorldReach, to tell us about their work and why they chose iProov for genuine presence assurance.
WorldReach is expert in government travel and citizen services. How has your business evolved since it was originally set up?
WorldReach was founded in 1998 after a five-year software development partnership with Canada's foreign ministry. As our international government client list grew, we quickly gained a reputation as a highly trusted government partner and advisor specialising in consular assistance including crises, and passport issuance solutions. This was our primary focus, until about five years ago.
In recent years, we chose to apply our expertise to create a new process for remote Identity and Document Verification (IDV), recognising the combination of the growth of smartphones as a mobile platform and the steadily increasing proportion of ePassports. In effect, turning the smartphone into an ePassport reader and allowing the owner to verify their identity in much the same way as an e-Gate or e-Kiosk in an airport does it, using facial biometrics.
What have been the biggest changes in government travel/citizen services since WorldReach started?
When we started, digitisation was really just a concept. Governments still largely depended upon a combination of paper documents and face-to-face processes to determine eligibility and to deliver services. This, in general, was a long, labour intensive and expensive process for governments.
We recognised the potential of technology to improve process. We worked on unlocking the power of the chip embedded in ePassports that are now issued by the majority of governments. Given all the efforts made by passport agencies to embed a small computer full of rich data into the passport, we wanted to make it more easily available in practice for immigration programmes.
Which government was the first to take advantage of this new process innovation?
With help from the Canadian Safety and Security Program and the sponsorship of Canada’s two immigration agencies, IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) and CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency), we were able to refine and test our technology with the real world input of immigration officials through several demonstration projects aiming at seamless borders for lower risk travellers. This work is still ongoing today in a prototype, soon to be pilot, called the Chain of Trust. The aim of the project is to achieve zero wait time at the future border for admissible passengers, by making the enforcement and compliance processes more dynamic and responsive. Our eIDV service allows applicants to register and authenticate their passport information – using their smartphone to read the chip – and uses the latest facial recognition technology to check that the applicant is a real, live person and the owner of the document.
Can you tell us more about the Home Office’s EU Settlement Scheme and how that came about for WorldReach?
In the UK, the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) run by the Home Office is using the eIDV concept in an immigration context in perhaps its single largest live deployment. Because of Brexit, the freedom of movement previously enjoyed by other EU nationals living in the UK will soon come to an end. The UK government estimates that there are between 3 and 4 million people in this category, who are eligible to apply for a new “settled status” before January 2021, in order to continue living and working in the UK.
The policy presented the Home Office with a new operational challenge, since applying for settlement in the UK usually involves filling out a lengthy form and sending personal documents – including passports – to the department in the mail, or attending a Home Office facility for an interview. The Home Office chose to offer an entirely digital application process, and we are pleased to be a significant part of the solution. Although EUSS began in full release only in March 2019, the Home Office recently announced that more than 3.3 million applicants had already applied for settled status.
So, a convenient, secure identity verification service, using the latest in facial recognition and iProov’s genuine presence technology, is the world’s largest and most successful digital immigration on-boarding programme.
What do you see on the horizon in this sector? What will be the biggest changes/trends over the next 2-5 years?
One of the biggest changes on the horizon concerns the passport itself. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is working towards an internationally recognised Digital Travel Credential (DTC) standard. A DTC has the potential to provide functionality and security features that are comparable to those of a current ePassport, with increased convenience. This generated DTC could substitute a conventional passport in some circumstances by providing a digital representation of the traveller’s identity, including in emerging seamless traveller initiatives.
It's not hard to see how this internationally accepted credential might then be used in other identity verification schemes, beyond travel.
Why did you choose to work with iProov?
We knew genuine presence would be a key component in any successful remote identity verification platform. After all, a selfie alone doesn’t prove a real person is present, nor can it detect a mask or other spoofing techniques. So, we went to work, testing and spoofing between 25 and 30 solutions that were in the market. At the time of the EUSS opportunity, iProov was the only solution that our technical team couldn’t spoof.
Having worked with iProov for more than a year, we continue to be impressed with the technology and the company’s responsiveness as a strategic partner.
What is life like at WorldReach? How would you describe your company culture?
We pride ourselves on fostering an inclusive, diverse, welcoming and transparent company culture.
As far as diversity goes, WorldReach staff speak 19 different languages. This has proven valuable in a global market, supporting clients from all over the world. Women make up 50% of our Senior Management, 67% of Technical Team Leads, and 40% of the entire staff. We’re very proud of these stats and we work hard to achieve gender parity.
As for daily life at WorldReach, there is a real camaraderie here, which is invaluable in times of crisis, such as we’re now seeing with COVID-19. We can count on one another. We have a very low attrition rate; a large percentage of our staff have been with the company for more than a decade. People like each other, laugh a lot, and work very hard. Our clients and partners recognize this; they know that they can depend on WorldReach, because we’ve shown that we depend on each other.
Finally, a bonus question! Can you tell us something surprising/something most people wouldn't know about government travel/citizen services?
Well, there are some things hidden in the passport statistics that you might not know. For example, of the 195 or so countries in the world, almost 150 of them now issue ePassports with an embedded chip. The largest issuer of passports in the world was the US for many years, most recently at roughly 20 million per year; however, a few years ago they were overtaken by China, which issued 30 million passports last year. Probably the smallest state issuer is Vatican City, which issues its own passport despite having only about 600 citizens in total.
Find out more about WorldReach at www.worldreach.com