Track record of biometric Ghana SIM re-registration provider comes under scrutiny
At a time when many Ghanaians have been expressing frustration with the biometric capture process for a government-ordered SIM card re-registration, the company awarded the contract has met scathing criticism for alleged incompetence in the domain.
This is according to a Facebook post by Selorm Branttie, Vice President at the IMANI Center for Policy Education – an influential think tank based in the Ghanaian capital Accra. The post is republished by GhanaWeb.
According to Branttie, the Kenyan company contracted for the activity describes its website as ‘Ghanaaid.com,’ but his findings show there is no such website that exists.
He says the application used for the re-registration process is the Ghana SIM Registration Agent App found on Google Play, but it is not accompanied by any substantial information that demonstrates the track record and experience of the app developer.
Branttie goes on that from his findings, the only biometric activity the Kenyan company has conducted in the past is a programme to register Soy Farmers in a Kenyan county.
The policy advocate says he also did some research into the company that registered the non-existent website. Called Pitstop Technologies, the company has no website either, Branttie claims, adding that a further search led him to a company with the same name registered in Malta in 2018.
“The whole country of Ghana with its 42 million active SIM registrations has been entrusted with a company that registered soy farmers in a county in Kenya with no website. Comparatively, the Electoral Commission which was doing around 18 million voter registrations used companies that are already in the space and known for undertaking these activities, for which I don’t need to mention names” a section of Branttie’s Facebook post reads.
The registration for Ghana’s December, 2020 vote was conducted by a joint venture between Laxton, Thales, and a local partner.
“From the President down to the beggar on the street with a phone, all of our biometric data is being handled by a company without a website, with no references, no track record, no identifiable activities anywhere in the world, but a tiny country…There are many questions we should begin to ask about the technical implementation consultations that went on with an activity like this,” adds Branttie.
In a follow-up Facebook post, the IMANI Center for Policy Education VP says he is not against a Kenyan company executing a project in Ghana, but his concern is whether such a company has the requisite capabilities for the job.
Branttie in the post raises a number of questions including the need for Ghanaian authorities to make public a list of those that were shortlisted to develop the re-registration app, for purposes of transparency.
“We need to know the specific criteria and benchmarks that they used to select this particular company above others. It would be in the interest of all to see which other requirements the selected companies fulfilled to be qualified for this service,” writes Branttie.
He adds: “We can digitize Ghana, and we should, and I support H.E. Bawumia (the Vice President of Ghana) on this, but we have to use the right channels, or we become losers.”
Meeting re-registration deadline
In yet another Facebook outing, Branttie raises concerns about the feasibility of re-registering the 42 million SIM cards used in Ghana within the deadline provided by the government.
He says for that to happen, an average of 233,000 biometric captures have to be done per day, which he believes is highly improbable for logistics reasons. The deadline for the process is March 31, 2022, and authorities say SIM cards are likely to be suspended from the network after this date.
It is against this backdrop that the National Association of Secretarial and Internet Café Operators of Ghana (NASICOG) has offered to help speed up the SIM-re-registration process, per a report by GhanaWeb.
NASICOG Secretary Richard Agyarko is quotes by the report as saying they will help reduce the current queues by making available their 200 regional centers and 10 community centers to registrants to shorten the time needed for biometric capture.
Calls to halt SIM re-registration
Meanwhile, in the flurry of all the controversy, a former head of the National Identification Authority (NIA) Dr. William Ahadzie has called for a suspension of the SIM re-registration exercise for stakeholder consultations to be carried out, Pulse reports.
In a statement cited by the outlet, Ahadzie posits that letting telcos collect the biometric data of Ghanaians exposes them to different forms of privacy risks and potential data breaches.
“In Ghana, the law allows only the NIA to establish a national biometric register and to share such biometric data with user agencies under strict conditions (because of the high risk of identity theft). Every individual with a phone who has a Ghanacard already has his/her biometrics captured by NIA and stored in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).
“NIA is capable of generating data of all customers of the Telcos for identity verification and authentication. Many Ghanaians have multiple phone numbers with different Telcos. They are moving from one Telco to the other at great personal risk and cost,” he writes.