Millions of SIM cards in Kenya yet to be registered as deadline nears

There is said to be unease among mobile telephone users in Kenya as almost 14 million active SIM cards across the three major mobile network operators in the country are yet to be registered with the biometrics of their users.

This comes as the 15 October deadline given by the government for all SIM cards to be duly registered elapses in just days, as reports Telecom Talk.

According to the report, about 200,000 SIM cards which were registered with wrong information are said to have already been put off the network, at the behest of the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) which says it is setting up a dedicated biometrics database which will be linked to other online services.

Meanwhile, general news portal Kenyans writes that ahead of the deadline, which was extended from April, citizens who are yet to get their SIM cards registered have been scrambling to do so.

Telcos, the outlet mentions, are also on an all-out mobilization to ensure many more of their subscribers have their SIM cards registered biometrically. They have been employing various mass communication strategies, including playback reminder tones before calls, to urge users to rush to the nearest service station and register their SIMs.

“I woke up in the morning and tried to call my friend who was supposed to pick me up, and to my surprise, the call first diverted to customer care requesting me to register my SIM card. I really felt frustrated,” a user is quoted by Kenyans as saying.

One of the fallouts of the SIM registration has been a drop in SIM subscriber numbers for some of the Telcos operating in the country, notes Capital Business.

Telkom Kenya, one of them, reportedly lost 721, 348 customers by the end of the second quarter of 2022, which was part of a general slowdown of subscriptions reported by the CA.

However, unlike Telkom Kenya, the subscriber base of two other networks (Safaricom and Airtel) increased within the period as many users were able to meet the biometric SIM registration requirement.

The directive to have all Kenyans re-register their SIM cards with biometric data was first given in February. The CA says the move is partly to enable government fight crime perpetrated via SIM-based mobile devices.

It has not gone down well with many Kenyans through.

There were nearly 60 million mobile devices linked to all mobile network operators in Kenya as of June this year, according to the CA.

Philippines telcos ready

The three telecommunications providers operating in the Philippines say that they are preparing and will be ready to carry out a biometric identity verification exercise for their subscribers.

The SIM Card Registration Bill has been signed into law by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., writes the government’s Philippine News Agency.

A representative for Globe Telecom Inc. said that “previous roadblocks” to their compliance have been removed. Other telecoms expressed hope they would be given more time to comply.

Philippine telecoms suggested that a full rollout of the PhilSys digital ID would make their task easier, GMA New Online reports, and requested that the national ID and passports be used. Other, more easily falsified documents should be excluded.

The biometric data used for verification will be stored by the government, avoiding a potential challenge for telecoms.

Public reaction reported by PNA was mixed, with some expressing hope the practice will curb fraud, and others noting that issuance of the national digital ID is lagging behind registration.

Indonesia suffers massive data breach

Meanwhile in Indonesia, a hacker claims to have acquired the SIM registration data of 1.3 billion accounts, according to Rest of World.

SIM registration was launched in Indonesia in 2018, with the promise of a reduction in spam being sent to subscribers. Social media complaints indicate this has not happened while the country has suffered a series of major data breaches this year.

Indonesia passed long-awaited data protection legislation in September.

Article Topics

biometric enrollment | biometrics | digital identity | fraud prevention | identity verification | Indonesia | Kenya | Philippines | SIM cards

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