Dar es Salaam. Long lines of people are expected at National Identification Authority (Nida) offices after the communications regulator moved to push for biometric registration of all subscriber identification module (Sim) cards from May 1.
In March, last year, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) launched a pilot project to register Sim cards using the technology.
The exercise was conducted in Zanzibar and Dodoma, Dar es Salaam, Coast Region, Singida, Tanga and Iringa regions.
According to the regulator, the move was meant to get rid of dishonest Sim card users and registration agents who harboured malicious intentions, including committing crimes.
TCRA said in a statement earlier this week that all Sim cards will have to be registered through biometric technology, using Nida IDs or at least a Nida registration number from May 1.
TCRA director general James Kilaba told a local radio station recently that Sim card owners had up to December 31, 2019 to register their numbers under the new system.
“Beyond that, it won’t be possible to use unregistered Sim cards,” he said.
An officer from a telecommunications firm, who requested not to be named, said the new registration approach may negatively impact on the number of subscribers, noting however that it will all depend on the speed at which Nida will issue the identity cards.
TCRA acting communications manager Semu Mwakyanjala said the statement issued by the communications regulator seeks to ensure that all Tanzanians are able to get their Nida IDs because going forward, no one will be able to register a Sim card without the document.
He said the decision seeks to protect Tanzanians against those abusing the telecommunications sector, considering the fact that currently at least Sh11.7 trillion is transacted via mobile money platforms per month.
According to Mr Kilaba, foreigners and other special groups will have a separate arrangement on how to register their Sim cards, including the use of their passports.
TCRA figures show that there were a total of 43.62 million Sim cards as of December 31.
However, a report by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) for the financial year 2017/18 shows that the speed of issuing national IDs has not been satisfactory.
“During the audit process in January, 2019, I found out that Nida had planned to register 22,268,463 (22.27 million) people but only 19,662,105 (19.7 million) had actually been registered so far. Similarly, out of those that had been registered, it is only 4,511,809 (4.5 million) IDs that had actually been issued,” he said.
For his part, the director general of Nida, Dr Anold Kihaule, told The Citizen yesterday that the registration process and procedures have not been changed.
The new Sim card registration system, according to TCRA, seeks to ensure that the regulator has correct particulars and statistics for sectoral development, while also helping them to curb forged identities.