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Ghana to address challenges slowing ongoing biometric SIM re-registration

Ghana to address challenges slowing ongoing biometric SIM re-registration

The Board of Directors of the National Communications Authority (NCA) and mobile telephone operators in Ghana have agreed on a number of measures aimed at smoothening a biometric SIM re-registration activity currently ongoing in the country, according to a statement issued by the NCA.

The process which started in October last year is due to end on March 31, 2022, amid threats from Ghanaian authorities that SIM cards that will not have been re-registered by this date will be suspended.

Concerns are however being raised by Ghanaians who have been complaining of acute difficulties in completing the exercise. While some complain of having to stand on long queues for hours for the biometric capture, others have picked holes in the functioning of the mobile application platform dedicated for the purpose as well as the Kenyan company to which the contract was awarded.

In order to handle these difficulties, NCA board members and CEOs of telcos involved in the exercise, alongside representatives of the company that developed the app being used, held a recent meeting in which they made commitments with the main goal of ensuring a seamless and hitch-free re-registration process.

The statement, published by portal My Joy Online, outlined six measures agreed upon, among them the need for greater collaboration by all the stakeholders and efforts by the telcos to improve customer experience at biometric capture centers by eliminating long queues.

Other steps agreed on by the NCA board and telco CEOs, the statement mentions, include an increase in the number of staff and agents involved in the biometric capture and the opening of additional centers and increasing the number of biometric devices; steps to publish the list of all registration centers for users to identify those closer to them; continuous update of the re-registration application to ensure it is robust and efficient at all times, and deeper collaboration to ensure that all associated challenges with the SIM cards are addressed in a timely manner.

Biometric data format and quality questioned

Meanwhile, in a related story, a letter of last September has emerged in which the Executive Secretary of the National Identification Authority of Ghana (NIA) expressed doubts over whether the biometric data being collected by the NCA for the SIM re-registration exercise will match that in the NIA database for identity verification purposes.

The letter obtained by local tech media outlet Techgh24 and published by News Ghana is said to be a response to an earlier letter sent to the NIA by the NCA asking whether the biometric data collected by the latter for the SIM re-registration would be interoperable for ID verification against the database of the National Identification System (NIS).

Professor Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah, the NIA’s executive secretary, expressed concern that the agency could not confirm the biometric data is being stored in the same format as in the national database, and that if it is, it may not be high enough quality for accurate matching.

This question has come up because the biometric data of mobile phone users is being collected again by telcos on orders from the NCA, whereas the NIS holds the data of all Ghanaians who hold the Ghana Card, reports suggest. The Ghana Card happens to be the ID document used for the SIM re-registration.

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