The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has announced that all financial institutions within the country must adopt facial biometrics by 31st December, 2023.

Financial services institutions will be obliged to ensure that its customers use selfie authorisation processes to authenticate digital transactions.

The move comes as the use of digital payment systems, including mobile banking and e-commerce, has grown significantly in Pakistan in recent years. A number of digital initiatives have been rolled out within the country’s financial services sector including implementation of its first instant payments system, Raast in January 2021.

Raast enables end-to-end digital payments among individuals, businesses, and government entities and has seen rapid adoption since its implementation.

According to the State Bank of Pakistan the number of users of instant and cost-effective Raast payment systems had grown 72 percent in the last six months of 2022, while internet and mobile phone banking users had increased by 21 percent (10.1 million users) and 22 percent (15 million users), respectively.

Research analyst GlobalData cites biometrics as a growing technology trend within the mobile payments space. According to the analysts 2022 Mobile Payments report, biometric identifiers such as fingerprints, facial recognition, and voice recognition are difficult to replicate by criminals, which should help reduce the amount of fraud in the case of device theft compared with password-based security.

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By GlobalData

“Due to smartphones’ natural integration with biometric solutions—and because consumers are already using fingerprint and facial recognition as a security measure for their mobile phones—the greatest opportunity for developing biometric infrastructure for mobile payments will be smartphones rather than biometric cards or POS terminals,” according to the report.

Mobile connections in Pakistan stood at 82.2 percent of the total population in January 2022, according to telecoms non-profit research organisation GSMA Intelligence. The number of mobile connections in Pakistan increased by 9.9 million (5.6%) between 2021 and 2022.