I want to share my understanding of the SIM re-registration process as to where we came from, what the current punitive actions are and what recommendations the actors can explore.
The greatest failures with public policy initiatives are implementing programmes with timelines, interests and ignorance.
The SIM re-registration programme is a good call because it provides a single source of truth but it must be done in a simple, systematic and efficient manner.
Status: My own understanding
Stage 0: Those without Ghana Cards at all (no show)
Stage 1: Those who have linked Ghana Card to SIM Card
Stage 2: Those who have gone to the telco to capture biodata or used the infamous android mobile app to complete registration
What the National Communications Authority (NCA) says the Ministry of Communications and Digitization has asked them to direct the telcos to do right now is to simply block voice calls for customers within stages 0 and 1 for 48hours weekly towards the end of September.
From September 12, the telcos will begin to do same blocking for data services towards the end of the month.
At the end of the month, every customer within stages 0 and 1 will have their numbers deactivated temporarily.
If they go and register within six months, they will get their lines back.
However, six months after the expiration of the registration deadline of September 30, they will completely lose their SIM cards and have it churned (recycled).
I believe SIM registration should be a data-driven exercise rather than an emotions-driven one. We need the National Identification Authority (NIA), NCA and telcos to discuss and come out with a clear segregated list of customers who have requested for Ghana cards but are yet to receive them.
This is aside the over 300,000 subscribers who did the offline mode that have to do the process again.
Taking this approach to deactivate and exclude citizens from communication is unfortunate because it creates digital exclusion and lowers Ghana’s performance as a digital economy and an enabler of digitization amongst its peers.
With a properly segregated list, we can tell those who are yet to make a visit to the NIA and we can address those folks properly bearing in mind some are not in town while others are in minority groups (disabilities, old age etc.) that need to be catered for accordingly.
Government also needs to accept that it is about to lower its Communication Service Tax (CST), Electronic Transactions Levy (E-Levy) revenue if it continues with this wholesale arbitrary deactivation of revenue generating SIM cards.
I call for and encourage a closer collaboration between the NIA and the NCA which are implementing directives from the Ministry but cannot unfortunately guide the Minister on the ineffectiveness of some of the reactionary (punitive) sanctions on citizens some of whom have genuine reasons why they are where they are at this time.
I equally urge folks to register their cards with all urgency especially those with Modems, Routers, Smart Drones, Smart Televisions, Smart Watches that use SIM cards.
Please, make it a point to register these as well as there is very little education on such wearables with smart actuators but they all risk being deactivate.
This is not surgical but blunt tool being used by the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation to unbridge the digital divide.
The writer, Barnabas Nii Laryea is the Director of Africa Digital Economy Forum