December 31 biometric base for mobile phones still a tall order

20Sep 2019
Henry Mwangonde
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
December 31 biometric base for mobile phones still a tall order

AS the December 31 deadline for biometric registration of mobile telephone lines nears, telecoms operators yesterday acknowledged that the speed is slow with only five million out of the 44 million phone users having been biometrically registered.

At a joint press conference to sensitize phone users to turn up for registration, telephone operators decried the slow turn up of the phone users attributing it to little knowledge on the essence of the process and slow issuance of national identity cards by the National  Identification Authority (NIDA).

TCRA head of the Corporate Communication Unit, Frederick Ntobi said by August mobile phone operators had registered 5,222,721 which was just 12-percent of all the 44,258,937 listed mobile phones in the country.

“We want to ensure that every phone user is registered by the set deadline and we insist all simcard users to biometrically re-register them using the National ID before the deadline in a bid to reduce congestion and other disturbances which may arise as a result of many people showing up when the deadline approaches,” he said.

The Tanzania Mobile Network Operators (TAMNOA) in collaboration with the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA)  launched a massive joint biometric registration campaign in a bid to ensure that no one is left unregistered ahead of the 31st December 2019 deadline.

Vodacom’s Tanzania Public Relations Manager Alex Bitekeye said that telecom companies decided to come together in ensuring that all eligible phone users are timely registered.

“As service providers, we need to make sure that all phone holders are registered ahead of the deadline which is 31st December. This will ensure that they do not miss out on communication and thus avoid some unnecessary disturbances later,” he said.

Speaking on documents needed during registration, Zantel Corporate Communications Manager Rukia Mtingwa affirmed that a client needs to have either a National Identification Card or its number.

Early this year, TCRA ordered that all simcard holders to be registered biometrically. Biometrics are becoming increasingly used as a “know your customer” tool for keeping fraudsters out of the customer base, particularly for telecoms.

In March last year, TCRA launched a pilot project to register simcards using the technology.

The exercise was conducted in Zanzibar and Dodoma, Dar es Salaam, Coast Region, Singida, Tanga and Iringa regions.

The move was meant to get rid of dishonest simcard users and registration agents who harbored malicious intentions, including committing crimes, the regulator had stated.