A move by Zambia’s communications industry regulator, the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), to have mobile users in the country register their SIM cards started on a “slow note” nationwide, amid fears that information could be used against people for political reasons.
A survey conducted by Biztechafrica around the capital showed that few subscribers are taking the time to have their SIM cards registered within the designated outlets.
Some reports suggest that politics could be to blame for the slow pace. Experts have questioned Zambia’s move to join other African states in the SIM registration exercise, as a number of mobile users in the country have reportedly been sceptical over submitting personal details for fear of victimisation.
Charles Milupi, president of the opposition Alliance for Development and Democracy, has claimed the registration is an exercise in capturing information about political opponents.
The country’s Patriotic Front (PF) administration has responded by stating that “they have been in office for only a year and the process was an initiative started by the previous government Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD)”.
“It is malicious for Milupi to claim that the PF government has introduced mobile SIM card registration so as to capture information about opponents and use it to silence or intimidate them,” Chanda Mfula, Director of Media and Publicity for PF, was quoted as saying.
The exercise, which began in the country’s capital Lusaka, is intended to enhance security as well as protect subscribers from criminal activities in the telecoms sector.
Biztechafrica said the slow-paced project is a reflection of what could be happening in other towns where the exercise is being undertaken.
MTN, a mobile network operator in the country, also reported a low turnout on the part of subscribers. According to the Biztechafrica survey, the slow pace noted is also due to ZICTA’s failure to execute effective campaigns to educate mobile users on the importance of registration.
It is also attributed to the country’s three mobile operators – MTN Zambia, Airtel Zambia and Zamtel – who are said to have been reluctant to inform their subscribers on the registration processes and the outlets where the exercises would be run.
The SIM card registration exercise is currently ongoing in a number of countries, such as Kenya, where it is hoped it will make it easier for mobile network operators to track down stolen handsets or those using the devices to commit crime.