Sparse national IDs stalk simcards move

25Apr 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Sparse national IDs stalk simcards move

THE government has said it will start biometric registration of mobile phone simcards using national identity cards next month even as it emerged yesterday that only two million people possess the IDs out of the targeted 24 million.

A statement released yesterday by the National Identification Authority (NIDA) said the exercise is set to kick off countrywide on May 1 in collaboration with the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (CTRA) and telecoms operators.

At the same time, the issue emerged in the National Assembly yesterday with lawmakers questioning its practicability since many Tanzanians do not have the IDs.

The queries came up after the minister for Home Affairs, Kangi Lugola told the House that 19,934,708 out of the targeted 24,295,468 people have so far been registered for the IDs by NIDA, noting that 11,133,095 ID numbers have been issued with 4,850,742 cards printed and just 2,503,769 distributed to holders.

The minister noted that in an effort to increase the pace of printing the identity cards, NIDA was finalizing plans to purchase two new machines with the capacity to print 9,000 cards per hour compared to 750 cards being printed per hour using the current machines.

The debate over practicability of the exercise started immediately after the questions and answers session when Special Seats MP Felister Bura (CCM) sought for a directive from the session chairperson, Andrew Chenge.

She wanted to know from the government how Tanzanians who do not have the national IDs would register their simcards.

 She said, “I would like the government to clear the air on the matter as anxiety is rising among the public.” After her request, Chenge ordered the government to respond to the matter.

It was at this point that the minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Parliament Affairs, Labour, Employment, Youth and the Disabled), Jenista Mhagama called on the Deputy Minister for Works, Transport and Communication, Atashasta Nditiye to respond.

The deputy minister reaffirmed the government position that by 1st May, all mobile phone owners will be required to register afresh using finger prints after identification through national IDs.

 "We started the process last month when we launched registration using fingerprints in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Mwanza regions in the pilot project but now it will spread nationwide,” he said.

In its statement, NIDA said that registration of simcards using biometric technology will require mobile phone owners to have NIDA-issued IDs or a NIDA registration number. TCRA has set September 30th 2019 as the deadline for registering simcards with biometric technology.

The government arrived at a decision to re-register simcards after a reported successful pilot project using the technology which was conducted by TCRA last year in Zanzibar, Dodoma, Dar es Salaam, Singida, Tanga,  Iringa and Coast regions.