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Biometric SIM registration soon in Mozambique, Ghana orders block of unlinked lines

Philippines national ID requirement draws criticism
Biometric SIM registration soon in Mozambique, Ghana orders block of unlinked lines
 

The club of countries introducing biometrics for SIM card registration continues to expand with Mozambique being the latest to unveil its plans. The government says the about 15 million citizens using mobile telecommunications services in the country will be expected to biometrically register their SIM cards in the next six months. In Ghana, the exercise has been ongoing for the past months and the National Communications Authority (NCA) has called on telcos to suspend the lines of those who failed to complete stage two of the registration process by 31 March. In The Philippines, the registration deadline looms, but many have not completed the process due to the document requirements imposed.

New SIM registration rules in Mozambique

A newly instituted decree signed on 11 April in Mozambique requires all those registering SIM cards to provide their fingerprint and face biometrics in addition to other identity credentials such a national ID card, passport or driver’s licence.

The decree, which approves the Regulation on the Registration of Telecommunication Services, also calls for the registration of all mobile devices, and reseller and distribution agents of telecommunication services.

The changes will be enforced by the country’s Regulatory Authority for Communication (INCM).

A seminar was held recently in the capital Maputo to popularize the decree, with a data science expert Reinaldo Zezela explaining that biometrics will “allow easy identification of the perpetrators of crimes in the sector, who today, due to lack of this information, commit fraud, with us left unable to identify or recognize them,” according to a report attributed to local publication Carte de Mozambique.

Zezela said the biometric data will enable authorities better identify telecoms users who will also be issued a unique telecommunications number.

Also, the new registration will have two databases, the expert said. One will hold the ID information of subscribers, their SIM cards and devices, while the other will be dedicated to information on fraud or attempted fraud by mobile service users.

The new rules, as explained by Zezela, provide sanctions for those who fail to comply with the new SIM registration requirements.

The regulations will be operationalized within 30 from the day of signature of the decree. The decree comes after the council of ministers approved the proposal early in March.

Lesotho and Namibia are among the latest countries in African to introduce biometric registration for SIM cards.

Over 8M unregistered SIM cards risk deactivation

In the meantime, in Ghana, SIM cards which had not gone through the second stage of registration before 31 March are to be blocked, according to a government directive.

The NCA had called on users to fully register their SIMs before this date, as seen in announcements on its Facebook page, or their SIMs would be blocked by 17 April.

This is not the first time SIM cards whose users defaulted on government directives have been blocked. Around eight million SIMs were deactivated late last year,

Ahead of the deadline, the NCA had also directed all telecoms operators to deactivate voice, data, SMs and mobile money services on all uncompliant SIMs, reports Pulse Ghana.

A total of 25.1 million SIM cards were fully registered as of 9 February out of the 33.7 million active SIMs in the country issued by telcos, per the NCA.

Figures from the Ministry of Communication and Digitization indicates that around 8.6 million SIM cards have not yet been linked to the Gnana Card, the article notes.

The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications had said it will respect the NCA directives to block uncompliant SIM cards.

There was no official information on whether any SIMs had been deactivated as at the time of this report.

Philippines national ID requirement draws criticism

Telecoms in the Philippines say the requirement of government-issued ID for SIM registration is preventing some subscribers from completing the process, PhilStar reports.

A Globe SIM executive says that the barangay certificate is the most widely-available ID in the country, but that many rural areas cannot issue compliant certificates. Barangays are the smallest local government division in the Philippines.

“The registration is digital. The subscribers have little fear. There is a little bit of hand-holding. We have seen that through time, from December 2022 to (this month). We only see the challenges today, that is why we are pushing for an extension,” says Globe Chief Sustainability and Corporate Communications Officer Yolly Crisanto.

An executive of DITO Telecommunity Corp. echoed Crisanto’s criticism of the government ID requirement.

A lawmaker in the country appealed to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to extend the process, the Manila Bulletin reports, with turnout reported at under 40 percent of mobile account subscribers.  The DICT rejected the appeal.

The deadline for SIM registration in April 26.

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