Friday April 11 2014

Verifying subscriber information a challenge, telecom players say


Despite completing SIM card registration, telecommunication companies have said they are facing challenges verifying the registered subscribers’ data due to lack of proper identification documents.

Speaking during a meeting between the internal Affairs Ministry and telecommunication companies’ executive directors recently, MTN general manager corporate services Anthony Katamba said: “Some subscribers don’t have any legal identification documents and that forced us to rely on letters from Local Councils which are not accurate enough. At times names of individuals are wrongly spelt yet we don’t have any other legal document to crosscheck with.”

Disguising identity
This means that if a person has ill intentions, he can decide to spell his name differently or even use different names to disguise his true identity.
It is also alleged that some subscribers submitted forged documents like identity cards, whose numbers could not be verified while others registered SIM cards on behalf of others, meaning that the registration agent didn’t see the applicant physically to verify whether the attached photograph is for the applican, in order to prove the identity of the applicant.

And although the exercise sought to among others help law enforcement agencies to identify the mobile phone SIM Card owners and track criminals who use phones for illegal activities, the existing loopholes make it possible for criminals to commit crimes without being identified.

Mr Katamba added: “Government IDs are the best identification documents we can have. Imagine we have over 16 million subscribers in the country but less than 2 million have passports. So we have information but it cannot be verified.”
Other telecom companies’ chief executives who attended the meeting includedAirtel’s Arindam Charkrabarlty and Uganda Telecom’s Ali Amir who also admitted that indeed telecoms are facing challenges verifying registered subscriber data.

Use of national identity cards
Telecoms executives requested the Internal Affairs State Minister Mr James Baba to consider partnering with them to verify subscriber information using data that will be collected during the mass enrolment exercise that will see Ugandans issued with national Identity cards (IDs).

The national ID will, among others, bear the holder’s name, date of birth, place of residence, unique identification number, sex and expiry date, which information will also be shared with other agencies such as the Electoral Commission to verify voters and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics to ascertain the country’s population size.

Sharing such information, it is hoped, will enable telecoms to have accurate information about their respective subscribers.

Fighting crime
SIM card registration came after the enactment of the Interception of Communication Act which provides for subscribers to register their SIM cards. The exercise was said to be aimed at fighting crime in Uganda. Uganda lacks an effective Identity Management System, or a national identity database of its citizens, which critics say has seen many Ugandans’ security threatened because of people who use mobile phones to perpetrate crime.