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Kenyan telco requires face biometrics for SIM card re-registration

NEC XON launches upgraded self-service kiosk
Kenyan telco requires face biometrics for SIM card re-registration

Safaricom, one of the leading mobile telephone network providers in Kenya, is reportedly asking users to visit the nearest Safaricom shop or any partner agency with their IDs to update their SIM details in a process that will also require submitting face biometrics.

Dickson Otieno, editor of news portal Tech-ish and a Safaricom user explains in a write-up that he has received messages from the company lately asking that he renew his SIM card details.

Otieno shares a screenshot message from Safaricom which reads: “Dear customer, urgently visit an M-PESA Agent, Dealer of Safaricom Shop with original ID to update your SIM card.”

He further mentions that after the first message (SMS), he later received another, this time a tweet, following an inquiry on the re-registration drive.

He says in the response, the telco mentions face biometrics as among the requirements for updating the SIM card registration details.

The tweet reads: “Hello Otieno, we are in the process of having every registration updated with the scan of the ID and facial recognition. In the meantime, any agent/dealer or Safaricom shop can do this for you.”

Meanwhile, Otieno says his findings reveal Safaricom has mentioned the inclusion of facial recognition in the SIM update drive to many other Kenyans on Twitter on grounds that it is a new requirement by the Communication Authority of Kenya.

He however questions the veracity of this claim by Safaricom, saying the country’s Registration of SIM Cards Regulation 2015 does not refer to collection of biometrics for SIM card registration.

In the wake of this development, there have been questions on the Twitter community in Kenya about the raison d’être and safety of the biometric data to be collected.

Safaricom has in the past talked about obtaining fingerprint biometrics from SIM users as part of efforts to fight SIM fraud such as SIM swaps.

NEC XON updates SIM registration kiosk with touchless technology

A partnership has been formed, meanwhile, between NEC XON and Wavetec subsidiary Azimut to roll out multi-modal biometric self-service kiosks for turnkey know your customer (KYC) checks by organizations such as telecoms.

The fully integrated kiosks provide touchless data acquisition and verification, support country-specific regulatory requirements, and support branchless operations, according to the announcement.

“There are expected to be 600 million unique mobile internet subscribers in Africa within the next two years,” says Grahame Saunders, Head of Identity Management at NEC XON. “They will have 360 million smartphones, and internet-based revenues will climb from $18 billion to more than $300 billion in GDP contributions, according to GMSA. Those are customers who the African telecoms and mobile operators must serve. KYC and identity solutions for enrolment, sales and after-sales service, seamless digital self-service onboarding, SIM dispensing, card issuing and automating cash-in, cash-out (CICO) transactions is the fastest, most cost-effective method to provide unprecedented customer experiences.”

The integrated solution guides customers through the regulated collection process for biometrics and other personal data in line with South Africa’s RICA requirements, and Saunders says it can be customized to “accommodate all relevant legislation through Africa.”

A previous generation of the self-serve kiosks with touch-based fingerprint biometrics was released by the partners in 2019.

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