Increase access to vaccines in developing countries with biometric identification technology


There are still some 20 million children in developing countries that are not receiving basic vaccines. NEC aims to improve immunization rates with its biometric identification technologies. In 2020, NEC, Gavi and Simprints jointly started technical demonstration of a Fingerprint Recognition Technology for young children (1-5 years old) aimed at increasing access to vaccines in developing countries. If this pilot is successful, in 2021, NEC will conduct operational demonstrations, including the distribution of vaccines.

October, 2020
NEC Corporation

Issues to be solved Standard immunization for all children
Product / Technology / Service Biometric technologies and fingerprint authentication technologies for young children
Approach Technology demonstration, operational demonstration
Target country / area Developing Countries
Target year for achievement Technology demonstration: 2020
Operational demonstration: 2021~22 (after technology demonstration success)
Scale of the business
Partner GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance
Simprints Technology Ltd.
Relevant target of

3.2 By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births.
3.8 Achieve universal health coverage, 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.



In developing countries, the lives of as many as 20 million children are at risk due to their not receiving basic vaccines. The wants to ensure that children around the world are able to be vaccinated on an equitable basis. Gavi Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) is one of the global organizations working to achieve this, and their activities are steadily yielding results. Since its establishment, 822 million children have been immunized, saving 14 million lives, with a focus on activities in developing countries.

Despite these achievements, however, issues remain to be addressed. According to UNICEF, the number of children age five and under who lose their lives from not being vaccinated still totals 5.6 million per year (*1). One of the major factors behind this is an identification crisis that remains deeply rooted in developing countries. One in every four children in the developing world does not have an ID and is not recognized by the government (*2) . In order to resolve this, births are being registered and maternal and child handbooks are being prepared, but these measures are not keeping pace with the overall need. In Sub-Saharan Africa, south of the Sahara Desert, it is said that half of the children under the age of five have not been registered.

To ensure accurate identity verification, Gavi adopted a fingerprint authentication solution from Simprints Technology Ltd. in the United Kingdom. Simprints is a start-up company spun off from Cambridge University, England, which provides a solution for embedding a dedicated application in a smartphone and matching fingerprints with a Bluetooth-connected scanner. This application can be used with smartphones even if offline, making it easy to use in developing countries where Internet environments are not prepared yet.

However, although the application could be used to reliably authenticate adult fingerprints, the accuracy of authentication for children under the age of 5, which is the main target of the vaccines, was a problem. Moreover, although the application was being implemented with a durable fingerprint scanner that could be used even in harsh environments in developing countries, the only way to verify the identity of young children was to link them with a parent.

Accordingly, NEC decided to offer Gavi the use of its biometrics. NEC's biometrics have been highly evaluated on benchmark tests sponsored by U.S. government agencies. NEC’s fingerprint authentication, for example, featuring excellent accuracy and speed, has won first place in these tests eight times. Combining Simprints' highly durable fingerprint scanner and easy-to-use applications with NEC’s world’s No. 1 fingerprint authentication technology (*3) , has the potential to be a major force in support of Gavi's activities.

In fact, a small-scale demonstration conducted in December 2018 found that NEC's fingerprint certification can be used to effectively authenticate the fingerprints of 1 to 5 year-olds. Furthermore, on June 6, 2019, Gavi, Simprints and NEC concluded an MOU and began collaborating on measures for making practical use of the fingerprints of young children.


Purpose of the project

To accelerate vaccination rate improvements by promoting identity verification and history management through the use of fingerprint authentication for young children.

Detail of the Project (How can this project address global health challenges?)

It is said that there are as many as 1 billion people in the world who do not have identity certificates. In order for everyone to receive medical services equally and equitably, it is essential to verify their identity with an ID card. If fingerprint verification for young children can be put to practical use, it will be possible to directly verify the identity of children who have been left behind, and to reliably deliver various medical services, including vaccines.

Timeline or milestones by the achievement of the commitment, KPI for monitoring activities

In fiscal 2020, we will conduct a pilot program using early childhood fingerprint verification technology for approximately 20,000 children in Tanzania and Bangladesh. Providing that the 2020 pilot is successful, in fiscal 2021, we will conduct an operational demonstration of vaccine distribution in Bangladesh to demonstrate the effectiveness of fingerprint verification for young children in the distribution of vaccines.

Role and responsibility of each partner

GAVI: Support the equal introduction and dissemination of vaccines in developing countries, increase immunization rates and strengthen health systems.
Responsible for technology demonstrations, support for the demonstration of vaccine operations and bridging of relationships with local health authorities.

Simprints: Provision of a fingerprint scanner and android-compatible verification software that have been developed to withstand the harsh conditions of developing countries. This software has recently been combined with NEC's fingerprint verification for young children, and is now being tested in the field. Simprints is also responsible for operations at demonstration sites.


(*1) Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2017
(*2) Birth Registration for Every Child by 2030: Are we on track? P6, December 2019
(*3) Results of benchmark tests conducted by U.S. government agencies

Contact information

Company: NEC Corporation
Department and person in charge:
  < Business >   Global Relations Division: Saori Tsubakino, Marie Mazuka
  < Public Relations and Marketing >   Corporate Communications Division: Yuzo Tomonaga
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editor:All contents including photos provided by NEC