After a year’s delay in implementing President Kibaki’s directive on registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards, the process finally kicked off last Monday.
This is a best practice in the mobile phone industry world over and among its major benefits, is to dissuade mobile phone-aided crime such as terrorism, money laundering, extortion, fraud, hate messages and incitement.
Further, the success of the process will lay ground work for the implementation of mobile number portability which is under way. This allows one to move from one mobile service provider to another without changing one’s cell phone number.
In Kenya, criminals use mobile devices to commit offences, mostly to lure people to their hideouts or to call relatives and friends of abductees, issue threats and demand ransom.
Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) is now compiling a database of all mobile phone users in the country by ensuring that new and existing subscriptions supply key information about themselves. After the exercise, the theory is, if a call is linked to a crime, the police can find out the owner of the SIM card that was used.
Although many people approve of this new requirement in principle, not everyone is happy with its implementation. In a country where a subscriber could simply buy a new SIM pack on the streets, going through the hassle of registration is an unnecessary inconvenience.
Besides, the one month deadline is impractically short to register millions of pre-paid subscribers, including pre-pay internet access modems, who have not signed up for mobile money transfer services.
No serious registration in Kenya, from birth registration to voter registration has even been accomplished without extension and one can bet with confidence that even this one will be no exception.