Stop issuing non-biometric lines, telecom firms told

07Sep 2019
The Guardian Reporter
DODOMA
The Guardian
Stop issuing non-biometric lines, telecom firms told

MILLIONS of Tanzanians could end up without mobile phone communication if a recommendation by a parliamentary committee to the regulator to bar telecom companies from issuing sim cards that are not biometrically registered is implemented.

Reading recommendations of the parliamentary committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs yesterday, committee member Asha Abdallah Juma said that the move would shield citizens from legal trouble ahead of the total ban on unregistered sim cards towards the end of the year.

She was presenting the committee’s views on the review of the Electronic and Postal Communications Act of 2010.

This is a U-turn from the position of the august House when the matter was first announced back in April when lawmakers questioning its practicability since many Tanzanians do not have national IDs.

The queries came up after the Minister for Home Affairs, Kangi Lugola told the House that 19,934,708 out of the targeted 24,295,468 people had so far been registered for the IDs by the National Identification Authority (NIDA), noting that 11,133,095 ID numbers have been issued with 4,850,742 cards printed and just 2,503,769 distributed to holders.

But yesterday, Juma said that the committee recommends that the government must also take stern measures to operators who will be found selling unregistered sim-cards.

“The government should now invest much of its efforts in the technology to shutdown all unregistered sim-cards, work hard to educate the public on the negative of impacts of using devices that are not registered with the biometric system,” the committee emphasized.

The committee said punishment proposed in the law could be too harsh for ordinary Tanzanians, the majority of whom live in rural areas and have little understanding of the sim card registration process.

The Special Seats MP (CCM) further urged the government to improve the process of issuing National Identification Cards (IDs)  so that everyone is reached.

Earlier, tabling the recommendations of the draft bill to review the Tanzania Electronic and Postal Communications Act in Parliament yesterday, Attorney General  Dr Adelardus Kilangi said that the proposed amendments were vital for public welfare.

He said the proposed amendments seek to make it mandatory for subscribers to have detachable and built-in Sim cards registered using verified information and documents for security purposes.

“Any person who knowingly uses an unregistered Sim card or built-in Sim card, or in any manner misuses a Sim card or commits an offence shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not less than 5m/- or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both,” says the Bill, which seeks amendment of seven pieces of legislation.

Presenting views of the opposition camp, Special Seats MP (Chadema) Latifah Chande asserted that telecommunication operators are the ones who should be held responsible if unregistered sim-card are found in the market.

Tanzania is currently conducting biometric registration of all Sim cards, with national identity cards being used as proof of identity.

Considering the fact that not all people have been issued with national IDs, the government announced earlier in the year that the registration which started on May 31 would be extended to December 31.