Tanzanians abandon work to beat govt deadline to block unregistered sim cards
London, Jan. 20, 2020 (AltAfrica)-From today, Monday, January 20, 2020 Tanzania government is expected to switch off about 10 million unregistered sim cards in bid to crack down on rising crimes
Officials say the move is aimed at cracking down on cybercrime, which jumped by 82% in Tanzania in 2017.
Among the victims is Gift Swai, who was defrauded of $1,300 when she tried to purchase electronics online via her mobile phone. She sent the money, but never received the goods. If a biometric SIM card system had been in place, she said, the person who stole from her would have been more likely to be caught.
The biometric registration will link SIM cards to identification cards or foreign passports and fingerprints. Nowadays, phones are like banks, said Fredrick Ntobi, of Tanzania’s Communication Regulatory Authority. “Sometimes, you might mistakenly send money to various places. Because the details of the one who received the money will be known, it will be easier for your money to be returned.”
Expectedly, long queues of have formed in several centres across the country as people try to beat Monday’s deadline to register their Sim cards.
Officials say only 20 million Sim cards have been registered, leaving more than half of active cards at risk of being switched off.
Many Tanzanians have criticised the government for not allowing enough time to complete the registration.
But Tanzania Communication and Regulatory Authority has blamed people for waiting until the last minute to complete the registration.
Phones are not just used for communication. Many people also rely on them to carry out financial transactions via mobile money systems, meaning any decision to switch them off will have economic implications too.
The government said the registration was intended to deal with cyber-crime and fraud but critics fear it would allow the authorities to eavesdrop on citizens, particularly during elections.