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VimpelCom welcomes biometric SIM registration and verification initiative in Bangladesh but residents still have privacy concerns


AJ Hanna, chief mobile financial services officer of VimpelCom, the parent company of mobile operator Banglalink, recently expressed the company’s interest to invest in mobile financial service (MFS) platforms in Bangladesh to complement the government’s vision for a “digital Bangladesh”.

In an interview with The Daily Star, Hanna said that VimpelCom and Banglalink are available to support the government and the people of Bangladesh by doing whatever it takes to make MFS a part of everyday life for the people of Bangladesh.

“It’s more than financial inclusion,” says Hanna. “It’s lifestyle convenience for the new digital lifestyle we are aspiring for.”

According to Hanna, security is the key to the successful smooth running of MFS success and “as Banglalink is already leading in the biometric registration of subscribers, we are confident in providing MFS with the most authentic information and security measures.”

Hanna says the company welcomes the biometric SIM registration and verification initiative of the government.

“It’s a bold move but one that has to be taken,” he says. “This will greatly benefit consumers and will enable us to provide them with more innovative and real time financial services that are tailored to their individual needs.”

Banglalink has been aggressive in adopting this directive, according to Hanna. “This paves the way for easy, fast and secure mobile wallet registration and can instantly increase the number of MFS users in the Bangladesh economy.”

VimpelCom currently offers world-class MFS in many of their markets, including Russia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Pakistan, however, the company has concerns regarding the country’s central bank’s draft guideline on MFS. Hanna says that the mobile operators will not be interested in investing heavily if this guideline is implemented.

The central bank recently began a process to allow any entity to have at best 15 percent share in a consortium of MFS. However, Hanna thinks anything less than 49 percent is unattractive.

“We have the retail network, a ready customer base and global know-how to offer financial services to Bangladeshi consumers right now,” he says. “If a multiple ownership policy is imposed, there will be endless delays and hopeless frustration.”

According to The Daily Star report, Banglalink has 15 percent penetration in the smartphone market and is increasing its market reach every day.

Legal notice served to stop biometric SIM registration

According to a report in the Dhaka Tribune, Md Humayan Kabir Pallab, a Supreme Court lawyer, served legal notice this week urging to halt biometric registration for SIM cards, claiming that it violates the privacy of users.

The notice was served on behalf of a resident and also said that the biometric data collected for SIM cards could create a high risk if national and international criminal organizations, networks or syndicates get access to the database.

Pallab said “collecting such information would be seriously prejudicial to his client as well as the whole society.”

Respondents named in the notice include: Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner, Grameenphone, Robi Axiata Ltd, Airtel Bangladesh Ltd, Banglalink, Teletalk Bangladesh Ltd and Citycell.

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