Technological gadgets vital, just as is perpetual vigilance

16May 2018
The Guardian
Technological gadgets vital, just as is perpetual vigilance

BY its own pronouncements some seven years ago, the Nationals Social Security Fund has long made sure that details on its members’ accounts can be accessed electronically and presumably in conditions of utmost security.

This was to be thanks to the Fund’s identification management system, introduced to the public before the full glare of television cameras at the Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair grounds.

The development was expected to spare members the need to spend hours or days lining up at NSSF offices for a service they would now get at the touch of button.

An information and technology network executive revealed – in fact, bragged – that the machines for the purpose had taken long to get into business because not all NSSF members had smart cards that would be used in the “info-kiosks”.

The smart cards were described as a must for members wishing to access their information in the kiosks, also referred to as self-service terminals to be placed strategically in high profile public areas.

It was noted that when the technology was introduced, it was discovered that members’ enrolment to get smart cards was far below expectations.

This had its own implication in that the Fund had to invest more efforts in enrolling more members by embarking on a countrywide crusade to replace old membership cards with electronic ones.

We have reason to assume that not only has the Fund already reached all the hundreds of thousands of its members and issued them with the smart cards but also this is now standard practice in all social security schemes in the country.

Part of the idea was to revolutionise operations by taking services to customers wherever they were rather than forcing customers to seek services at the schemes’ head or regional offices.

The info-kiosks would use the biometric system – or Automated Finger Print Identification System – and were expected to ensure members easy access to details including statements, employers’ remittances of employees’ contributions and whatever other information they would need.

One of the biggest advantages here was that employees whose contributions were not remitted would be able to make follow-ups with their employers before it got too late.

Regrettably, it is confirmed that some employers have been routinely deducting money from their employees’ salaries in pension fund or similar contributions but without actually taking the money where the law says they should deposit it.

For some reason, the biometric gadgets were to be deployed at mining companies first on a pilot basis although this is by no means to say that this was the first time the technology was being used anywhere.

By then, the system was already in use in more than ten countries in this part of Africa and was said to have to cut the incidence of inefficiency (mainly the perpetually “missing files”), corruption and mismanagement commonly affecting national social security funds and various other institutions.

However, the experience with the use of the gadgets shows that they too can be vulnerable in the face of sophisticated forms of modern-day cyber and other crime.

Thus, stepped-up vigilance by all concerned remains crucial – particularly in the specific case of institutions like banks and social security funds that are entrusted with the savings of millions of people.

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