Kenyans have until 31 July to register their SIM cards under a move aimed at curbing mobile phone crime.
The registration drive is being coordinated by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and is in keeping with similar initiatives in Tanzania, South Africa and other parts of Africa. People who do not comply with the requirement will have their numbers deactivated.
To register, subscribers must submit their phone number, name, date of birth, gender, postal and physical address and an ID number to their operator, which will be stored in a CCK database. Adults are required to register on behalf of minors, who are specified as the user rather than the owner of the SIM card. The registration requirement does not apply to subscribers with post-paid or mobile money transfer services, who had to supply their personal details when they opened their account. New subscribers are registered automatically when they purchase a SIM card.
There are an estimated 20 million cell phone users in Kenya out of a total population of around 40 million and with the rapid expansion of mobile money transfer services SIM card registration is considered an important way of preventing fraud. In addition proponents of the initiative hope it will help deter other types of mobile phone-related crime including handset theft and threats and hate messages, which have increased in recent years.
However opponents of the move are concerned about the implications for data protection and privacy. In addition there is a question over the usefulness of the information collected in preventing crime if it is not kept up to date.