26 July 2010

Anecdotal Evicence: SIM Card Registration

I wrote this short piece recently, looking at the benefits of SIM card registration (e.g. fighting crime) versus the fact that it's a massive admin headache for the mobile operators and subscribers.

I have a suspicion that it's going to come down on the side of the admin headache:

I went to register my SIM cards a few days ago. Safcom's forms have no duplicate, so I basically walked away with no evidence that I had tried to comply with the regulations. I noted down the number on the form, but that's no good if someone loses the form, which appears entirely possible. The lady at the outlet told me that the forms would be passed on to CCK and she 'hoped that the information would be processed.' The 'hope' in that sentence gave me nervous visions of stacks of forms. Like the immigration card stacks at the airport.

Zain at least have a duplicate that you can take with you, but no stamp or anything showing that you have really submitted your details.

Neither one actually checked the copy of my passport against the details I put down on the form, or just checked the passport copy itself against the passport (I could have probably taken someone else's passport. Or faked the information on it. I could have also just made up my postal and residential address since there's no way of checking this via my passport. Good thing I'm lazy).

My colleague reported something similar from her trip to Orange Telkom and another mobile operator outlet: The first outlet she went to didn't insist on seeing her ID (she didn't have a photocopy), and since she just came out of the first operator's outlet, the people at the second one said that she must be ok, and so took her registration form without even asking for the ID. Yes, really.

I'm not sure what the provisions are for keeping that new subscriber data base updated, but I do wonder about the accuracy of that data base in the first place. That's without even thinking about data security and the capacity of the police to intervene and follow up in case of any crime.

Anecdotal evidence from a friend in Tanzania:
'I registered one of my lines with a shopping centre security guard for a TZS500/= facilitation fee. And he made sure I got the duplicate. I can't work out whose interests this exercise benefits, apart from entrepreneurial security men.'