Digital ID in Africa this week: mobile money, tracking teachers and large SIM fines

National telecom watchdogs are fining mobile operators for not keeping up with SIM card registrations linked to ID, while in Ghana, mobile payments are expecting to mushroom with the help of a biometric smartcard which links providers, banks and retailers. Another registration round will open in Kenya for the Huduma Namba scheme and in northern Ghana, 350 offices will open for the mass Ghana Card registration exercise. Biometric technology could help tackle teacher attendance in Uganda (or at least track it), while demand for biometric passports in Cote d’Ivoire as the August vacation period approaches has grown so fast, the passport authority is opening its doors at the weekends to deal with the crowds. While in Zimbabwe, people miss operations and scholarships abroad as the authority cannot afford to import the paper needed.

Cameroon & Mozambique: SIM card registration woes

Cameroon’s telecom operators have been fined for poor implementation of the national SIM card registration requirements while their counterparts in Mozambique have been given a 10-day warning to address the same issues or face sanctions, reports IT Web Africa.

Cameroon’s Telecommunications Regulatory Board (TRB) has fined MTN Cameroon and Viettel Cameroun (Nexttel) 1 billion FCFA (US $1.7 million) each and Orange Cameroun 1.5 billion FCFA ($2.6 million) for failing to respect subscriber identification regulations. The Board carried out control exercises and issued formal warnings ahead of the fines according to the report.

The Instituto Nacional das Communicações de Moçambique (ARECOM) has given Movitel, mCel and Vodacom a 10-day warning to address issues with SIM registration as there are many active SIMs that have yet to be registered against an ID.

Both countries have laws requiring all SIM cards to be registered to a person based on the presentation of a form of ID. Many other countries in Africa are introducing similar schemes with Zambia the most recent to announce registration requirements from January 2020.

Zimbabwe, Ethiopia: data privacy vs Chinese surveillance apparatus

While data protection laws are increasingly common worldwide, little attention is being paid to the effectiveness of legal instruments in countries to enforce privacy laws, a disparity African nations are particularly prone to as Chinese companies provide assistance with surveillance equipment, argues an article for Africa Is A Country.

Countries such as Zimbabwe and Ethiopia show no political will or capacity to enforce privacy protection as they construct surveillance systems built with Chinese technology. In some cases paid for by China, such as the contract awarded to Chinese surveillance providers CloudWalk in Zimbabwe.

The author Bulelani Jili concludes the article with a bleak look to future: “A techno-dystopian future is more likely if African governments and publics continue to overlook the current crisis. Digital authoritarianism, in Africa and beyond, is on the rise. Securing data privacy and internet freedom against these novel forms of repression is fundamental to preserving our rights and fragile experiments in democracy.”

Kenya: Second chance for Huduma Namba registration and more use cases

There will be a fresh round of registration for Kenya’s Huduma Namba ID number scheme, government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna has announced, reports The Star. The next round will last two weeks but no date has yet been given.

The original registration period was initially extended by a week in May to give more people a chance to register. Oguna said 37.7 million people had registered the first time around but 11 million left out.

According to The Star, Oguna said the government had taken into account the main obstacles to sign up: people not having all the necessary documentation such as birth certificates. The government hopes people will be able to acquire the necessary paperwork now before the next round which will be held in local administration offices rather than in marketplaces.

Only 70 percent of the officers working in the first 52-day period have so far been paid, which is the latest public concern for what has been a controversial project.

Meanwhile, growing fraud and cybercrime in Kenya present an opportunity for online biometric authentication, reports the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation. The country’s Communications Authority has already issued 14,078 cyber threat advisories in the first half of 2019. The country lost 30 billion shillings ($291 million) in 2018 to cybercrimes.

Ghana: Biometric locks hamper response to Ministry of Health fire

The response to a fire that gutted the headquarters of the Ministry of Health in Accra was hampered when night guards were unable to access the source of the fire due to biometric fingerprint locks, reports The Ghanaian Times.

The security guard detected smoke coming from the server room but as he was unable to access the room due to the biometric locks, he went on foot to the fire brigade who were on the scene in minutes and smashed their way in.

In more positive biometric news from Ghana, popular rapper Sarkodie has publicly gone through the process of getting his Ghana Card which will state his real name, Michael Owusu Addo. Ghana Page reports that he took to his social media accounts to explain the process for the ID signup that has been facing a few public image issues with incidents of bribery.

Ghana: fastest-growing mobile money market in Africa boosted by biometric smartcard

The number of registered mobile money accounts in Ghana grew six-fold between 2012 and 2017 and the volume of transactions is expected to increase rapidly with the release of the biometric E-zwich card, reports The Conversation.

Mobile money transactions rose from 35 billion cedis ($6.5 billion) in 2015 to 156 billion cedis ($29 billion) in 2017 as the range of services has increased, now including transactions such as bill payments. The E-zwich smartcard is now starting to take hold. It is one of the first interoperability schemes in Africa and lets users make payments across banks networks and at the point of sale.

The card requires biometric capture of all ten fingerprints at registration. These are stored on the card and verified at ATMs or POS. So far 2.7 million cards have been issued and 7.7 million transactions handled since the scheme began in May 2018, representing 2 percent of Ghana’s GDP.

Uganda: Biometric attendance to tackle teacher absenteeism

Uganda plans to install biometric fingerprint readers at schools nationwide to curb teacher absenteeism, announced the Finance Minister Matia Kasaijia when presenting the country’s next budget, reports The Observer.

Kasaijia announced that a fingerprint pilot scheme in 20 District (Uganda is divided into 127 numbered districts) reduced teacher absenteeism from 15 percent in 2015 to 4 percent in 2019.

Teacher pay is an ongoing issue in Uganda, with 256 teachers in Serere district going unpaid for over three years now.

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