Mobile phone users in Tanzania will until March this year to ensure they have biometric identification for their SIM cards as part of the country’s efforts to boost security and tame cybercrime.
The Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) said biometric identification will help in the acquisition of accurate customer information, curb mobile phone-related fraud and other criminal activities more effectively.
“With the fingerprint systems, the information obtained from registered SIM cards be directly linked to a customer’s national identification card ensuring there is no more misinformation or forgery of the documents,” said Semu Mwakyanjala, acting corporate communication manager at TCRA.
The telco regulator feels the current system is not secure enough and also lacks important subscriber details that are vital for the national identity card registration initiated two years ago.
“The current system of using any ID card and a letter from your village leader, shelters lots of forgery and misinformation that a subscriber or customer may provide. But using the new system, all counterfeits will be dealt with” he added.
The fingerprint SIM card registration being carried out in Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and the southern highland region of Iringa on a pilot basis for one month, started February 5 this year before it can be expanded to the rest of Tanzania.
“We are trying this out in a few regions first but the Authority will with time announce direct all mobile phone service subscribers to be incorporated into the new system,” Mr Mwakyanjala added.
It was previously easy to buy and discard mobile phone lines as one only needed to provide their full name, produce an identification document from any of the following: a National ID, voters card, driver’s licence, passport, workplace ID, education ID, physical/postal address, gender, date of birth.
These apparently were all easy to forge, thereby allowing criminals a loophole to exploit.
Tanzania started out with about 230,000 cellular phone subscribers, but currently, the country boasts 39,953,860 subscribers. And according to TCRA data released in December last year, nearly 99 per cent are duly registered.
Smart has registered all its 131,501 subscribers, Halotel with 3,799,691 and government-run Telecom with 302,726 and Zantel with 935,076.
In comparison, Tigo, Vodacom and Airtel are still in the process of completing registration of all their SIM cards.
Tigo accounts for 99.8 per cent with 11,044,520 subscribers registered out of its total 11,062,852 subscriptions. Vodacom follows with 99 per cent registered out of 12,866,059 and lastly, Airtel with 97 per cent registered subscribers out of 10,855,955 line owners.