Tanzanian citizens have until January 20, 2020 to register their SIM cards through the new biometric registration system initiated by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority on May 1, 2019.
With the process of registering biometric SIM cards, Tanzania joins a growing list of African nations that have undertaken the revolution of biometric data and digital identification. The regulatory authority said the biometric registry will help control cybercrimes and fraudulent abuse of mobile phones, among other reasons.
In previous years, Tanzanian citizens had to show their telecommunications provider a voting card, a driver's license or a passport to register SIM, prepaid and postpaid cards. Those without documentation could register with documentation from friends or relatives, according to Samuel Kabulo, a Tanzanian citizen who lives in Dar es Salaam and spoke with Global Voices on WhatsApp.
Now, to activate pre and postpaid SIM cards, more than 21.7 million mobile phone users in Tanzania must first register with the National Identification Authority, which requires all citizens to provide fingerprints and proof of identity such as part of the registration process.
To complete the biometric SIM card registration process, users must go to a service provider, show their NIDA card or number, have their fingerprint taken – and then that information is disseminated, reviewed and confirmed through the NIDA system.
Those who do not register with the biometric system will be blocked on their SIM cards on January 20, and will not be able to make or receive phone calls or text messages. The new registration process also ensures that each user registers only one SIM card per network.
The eight Tanzanian operators have promised full cooperation with the regulatory authority, according to a representative of the Tanzanian mobile network operators.
TCRA yapeleka kampeini ya Haachwi Mtu Nyuma kamilisha usajili wako mkoa Mtwara https://t.co/nipUM85NUn pic.twitter.com/8lCdpGlMUq
– SwahiliCloud (@SwahiliCloud) December 11, 2019
The regulatory authority brings your campaign “Nobody is left behind, complete the registration” to the Mtwara district.
This period is an extension of 20 days from the original period of December 31, 2019, when it was reported that only 42% of SIM card owners had registered biometrically.
On Friday, December 27, 2019, President John Magufuli announced: “This record is important for national security and will help address incidents of mobile phone fraud,” according to The Citizen.
In order to get support for the biometric registration system, the regulatory authority identified 150 of Tanzania's main social media influencers to promote the campaign, “Haachwi Mtu Nyuma, Kamilisha Usajili” or “Nobody is left behind, complete the registration.”
The campaign includes regional outreach activities, concerts and mass signatures in the districts of Zanzibar, Shinyanga, Singida, Mtwara, Lindi and Ruvuma throughout Tanzania.
The influencers, who have a joint base of 20 million followers, agreed to use their social media accounts to raise awareness of the importance of biometric registration. They also agreed to send a clear and direct message to citizens: register or face the consequences of being blocked.
On Tanzania's independence day, on December 9, influences such as Masoud Kipanya, with more than 784,000 followers, lined up with Airtel's network and posted an urgent message to enroll in the biometric record:
Leo tunasherehekea Miaka 58 and Uhuru,
Kuwait Huru kwa Peruzi na kuangali mambo mbalimbali mitandao kwa spidi ya Airtel 4G na ba side za DABO DATA, Pia kamilisha usajili kwa Alama za Vidole, nor fasta na rahisi.#NdukiNduki # Airtel4G DC; @airtel_tanzania pic.twitter.com/Ktfvfq4WPA
– Masoud Kipanya (@masoudkipanya) December 9, 2019
Today we celebrate 58 years of independence. Feel free to travel through various networks with the speed of Airtel 4G and double data packages. In addition, complete the biometric record. It is fast and easy.
And this cybernet joked that it is much better to wake up with the message of a lover than with a threat from a telecommunications operator that they will cut the line if you do not register:
Bora wewe ukiamka unakutana na SMS za mahaba kutoka kwa mpenzi wako…!
Mwenzio nakutana na SMS za vitisho kutoka voda wananiambia laini yangu itafungwa nisipo kamilisha usajili…! ??
– Saba Tano Mbili (@samwelreturn) December 5, 2019
It's better if you wake up and find text messages of your love! Friends, I found threatening text messages from Vodafone Tanzania. They tell me they will close my line if I don't register the line!
Long lines at the identification office
In order to register a SIM card biometrically, citizens must register with NIDA, the national identification authority, and receive an identification card or at least one registration number.
Citizens must present their fingerprints and provide documents that show 1) citizenship (birth certificate or affidavit, voter identification card), 2) proof of existence (driver's license or national medical insurance card) and 3) proof of age (passport or primary school certificate).
In the countdown to the original deadline of December 31 for biometric registration, long lines were reported in several NIDA offices throughout Tanzania when citizens tried to overcome the first obstacle of acquiring an identity number before completing their records SIM card with your network providers.
According to Kabulo in Dar es Salaam, obtaining ID card from NIDA has been difficult for many citizens because of the birth certificate requirement.
“The problem is the birth certificate, which was previously not important to have, so most Tanzanians do not have a NIDA ID because the applicant must have a birth certificate or affidavit,” Kabulo told Global Voices through a WhatsApp message
In April 2019, NIDA reported that it had registered approximately 88% of citizens who meet the requirements and will offer “mass registration” campaigns for 12% of citizens over 18 who meet the requirements but did not comply with the requirements. previous deadlines
However, Interior Minister Kangi Lugola “told lawmakers that only between 13 and 14 million of a total of 55 million Tanzanians had national identification cards issued by… NIDA,” according to a November 2019 report from Xinhuanet
Since the national identification began in 2013, only a small percentage have received ID cards for printing problems and other obstacles. Many more have NIDA registration numbers, which should be enough to continue with the biometric registration of SIM cards, the authorities of the regulatory authority said.
Africa's future in biometrics and digital data
“Biometrics and digital identification is entering our daily lives in many parts of Africa,” according to Biometrics Update, a website that identifies digital and biometric systems around the world.
The site argues that in 2019 there were the biggest leaps in biometric data collection and digital identification systems in the continent, from voter registration, access to health services, SIM card registration and national identification plans.
Registering a SIM card with biometric data raises serious concerns about threats to privacy.
In June 2019, the Government of Mozambique insisted that the SIM card registration “would help fight crime and fraud,” and issued an ultimatum to citizens to register SIM cards. But privacy activists considered the registry as a “violation of the right of users to communicate privately”, especially during tense political periods, such as elections.
On the other hand, until November 2019, only 25 of 54 African countries have national data protection laws.
The controversial system of “number of services” or “Huduma Namba” of Kenya generated controversy in 2019 when it tried to function as the “only source of truth” that linked multiple digital identity systems. Civil society groups judicially challenged the system, and questioned the constitutionality of the program and its potential for cyber attacks on the privacy and security of citizens.
On November 8, 2019, Kenya implemented a new national data protection law, and became the 26th country with current data protection measures, but critics say that it may not be enough.
As the deadline for registering biometric SIM cards in Tanzania approaches, citizens may face similar problems regarding privacy and data protection. Although there are several laws that address data regulation and data privacy protections, in Tanzania there is not a single comprehensive data protection law.
Editorial Note: Thanks to Goodhope Amani for the verification of the translation.