By: Nghiinomenwa-vali Erastus
Namibia is one of two African countries that have not yet fully implemented SIM registration, while more than 157 countries around the world have already done so.
The Communication Regulatory Authority (Cran) revealed last week in its awareness campaign to convince around 2.2 million mobile network subscribers in Namibia to register their SIM cards.
The regulator explained that mandatory SIM registration is in preparation for protecting digital identities from cybercrimes.
Furthermore, to ensure the effective regulation of a technological landscape that significantly benefits society, the economy, and Namibia’s governance.
Part six of chapter V of the communications act, SIM registration conditions obligate users to register their SIM cards at the service providers.
In doing so, subscribers must provide their full name, address, and identity number in the form of a copy of an identity document or passport.
Cran, on 07 June 2022, officially launched the national SIM registration awareness campaign, which aims to educate the public on the importance of the registration of SIM cards in Namibia.
The campaign has been received with some hesitance, even with some lawmakers questioning the move.
Cran, however, is on a mission to have the public and all stakeholders understand the relevance of SIM Registration, debunk misinformation, and encourage compliance.
Cran’s chief executive officer, Emilia Nghikembua, explained that it is vital to ensure the country’s effective regulation of technologies is on par with international best practices and in the interest of national safety.
She said protection of the individuals from cybercrimes is just as important, adding that SIM registration is a component of a larger scheme for Namibia’s application of digital technology to various matters, including defence, finance, agriculture, education, and governance.
According to Interpol’s African cyberthreat assessment report 2021, Africa has over 500 million internet users and the fastest growing internet and telephone networks in the world.
According to Nghikembua, being part of the global digital village brings benefits, but for Namibia to reap them and be prepared for cyber threats such as scammed text messages, protection of the nation and individual users must be implemented through SIM registration, amongst others.
President Hage Geingob, early this month, had said Namibia needs to be ready for the radical change in production, management and governance following the exponential growth in the application of digital technology.
“This makes SIM registration a big step in the right direction for citizens to access electronic financial services legitimately and safely, social services of governance and other potential platforms of resources,” Cran’s Nghikembua wrote.
She explained Africans make the widest use of mobile banking services, and independent organisations have raised the concern of how particularly women and girls are at great risk of cybercrimes due to a lack of legislation in protection of the individual user.
Moreover, a person is now more than a physical citizen of a country alone, and an individual’s digital presence has become more prominent through the integration and application of digital technologies to how we live, work, and relate to one another.
SIM registration will now complement already in-place legislation and enables law enforcement and national security agencies to verify digital identities and the use of a mobile phone number during investigations.
According to Nghikembua and team, SIM registration will serve to protect users from cybercrimes, and law enforcement will have evidence to prosecute culprits.
She stressed that the data to be retained by service providers, the information to create an itemised bill, is already in existence and can be obtained by users.
Growth in the digital landscape and an increase in the vulnerability of individuals to cybercrimes prompt both the government and the private sector to adopt strategies that are protective of individual digital identities.
At the same time, more inclusive of all levels of income, business sizes and sectors of the economy. After SIM registration, Nghikembua indicated that growth in e-commerce would enable users to manage their businesses and lives better within a safe environment.
However, interception of individual data will not be allowed without execution of the relevant procedures as per the legislation.
Beyond safety measures, SIM registration will also make number portability possible.
Number portability will give SIM card users the freedom of switching between networks while keeping the same number.
Additionally, SIM registration will create a comprehensive database of information, which will enable Cran to regulate the industry effectively.
In a manner that promotes transparency, encourages competition, implements fair pricing regimes, and ensures a quality of service in the interest of the user, the regulator indicated.
According to Cran, without the implementation of legislation such as SIM Registration, Namibia’s people and the country’s FINTECH are vulnerable and at high risk.
This drive for SIM registration awareness targets pre-paid users who have had the opportunity to purchase and use a SIM card without providing any form of identification.
As of 01 January to 31 December 2023, it is mandatory for mobile operators to register all their customers’ SIM cards and obtain all relevant information before the sale and activation of SIM cards.
Operators will have a period of 12 months to conclude the registration of existing customers. The information of new customers must be registered within three months from the date of sale, and unregistered SIM cards will be deactivated.