ZICTA admits lapses in SIM reg

By Edith Mwale, Lusaka, Zambia

The Zambia information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) has finally admitted that it did not do enough sensitisation on the ongoing SIM card registration exercise resulting in apathy by the public.

Last month, Biztechafrica revealed that ZICTA and the country’s three mobile phone operators had done little sensitisation on the exercise resulting in very few subscribers taking time to do the registration.

The regulator admittedly blamed itself for the apathy saying: “we need to do a lot of sensitisation because it could be that people do not know about this exercise.”

ZICTA director for technology and engineering Patrick Mutimushi said from the time the registration exercise started in August this year, only 300, 000 people out of the country’s over 8 million subscribers have registered their SIM cards.

Mutimushi said the authority is faced with various challenges in sensitising the public on SIM card registration, which they are now trying to work on especially in rural areas.

“When it comes to rural areas, ZICTA is finding it difficult in reaching the people due to the location of some of the places,” Mutimushi said.

Mutimushi also blamed politicians for the apathy saying they have misled people into thinking that the ruling party; the Patriotic Front (PF) is up to no good with the registration exercise. The opposition has been consistent telling people that the Zambian government wants to use the details given during the registration exercise to crackdown people criticising the government on the phone.

Speaking at a corporate client SIM card registration meeting in Lusaka, Mutimushi said however, that the authority has now embarked on a countrywide tour to sensitise the public on the benefits on registering their SIM cards.

He said the authority has also realised that in implementing the SIM card registration exercise, there was need for much consultation with various stakeholders. He further threatened that the law will deal firmly with anybody who will fail to register their SIM cards because the exercise was being done under the law.

Like many other countries in the region and around the world, Zambia commenced mobile phones SIM card registration with the aim of combating crime and other negative vices that come with the use of mobile phone.

ZICTA claims it embarked on the SIM registration exercise to enhance security in the telecom sector and to protect subscribers from criminal activities.

Biztech Africa also revealed last month after a conducting a survey that the slow note, at which the registration exercise commenced in the capital Lusaka, was a reflection of what may also have been happening in other towns across the country. ZICTA has admitted it has problems with the registration exercise in other towns of the country.

ZICTA believes that SIM card registration will further make it easier for mobile operators to track the SIM card if stolen or lost and to track down those using mobile phones to commit crime as all personal details including residential address are provided during the registration.

The slow pace at which the registration exercise is being conducted is a sign enough that the exercise is headed for failure or may take the whole year to be completed. This explains why ZICTA has not announced the deadline for the exercise.

But Mutimushi said the regulator may set March 2013 as a deadline for the exercise but that much depends on how people will respond between now and March.

One thing that is also clear as to the reason the exercise is seemingly failing is that three mobile operators-MTN Zambia, Airtel Zambia and Zamtel have also not made rigorous efforts to inform subscribers the outlets where the registration is done.

It’s only now that the operators have started sending text messages and television and radio adverts to subscribers telling them to register their cards.

Last week, the author of this article went to register a SIM card with MTN and received a message the following day from the operator saying, “Y’ello! Thank you for completing the SIM registration process. You are now registered on MTN.”

As for the Zambia Telecommunication Company (Zamtel), a government run communication utility company, little or no progress has been made in the exercise.

Last week, company’s communication manager Kennedy Mambwe said the company will issue a comprehensive statement this week on the registration exercise.

Zamtel is not even aware how many people have so far registered their SIM cards with the network.

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