NAIROBI, Kenya Jul 30 – The government has extended the deadline for SIM card registration to August 31 to give Kenyan mobile phone users more time to comply.
The exercise that begun on June 21, has so far seen 12.4 million subscribers furnish operators with their personal details marking 62 percent compliance.
Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said the decision to extend the deadline is informed by low compliance in the rural areas, where operators have expressed their dissatisfaction in those areas.
“It was decided that because we have not been able to reach the rural interior, where most of our people have mobile phones, we would extend this by another 30 days,” Dr Ndemo said adding it would give the exercise a chance to end smoothly.
The registration of SIM cards is being conducted in an effort of assisting authorities track people who use the devices to carry out offenses including kidnappings, theft, fraud and hate crimes.
Until the initial expiry date of July 30, only 12.4 million subscribers had registered their lines out of a possible 20 million subscribers. Of the four operators, Safaricom leads with 71 percent (11.3 million) followed by Zain Kenya with 54.2 percent (one million). Orange and Yu round up the group with four (36,907) and seven percent (110,013) respectively.
The PS revealed that the exercise would also act as a way of identifying the number of active mobile users in the country.
“Some people fear that they don’t have time to register all their lines but the other possibility is that we could only be having 15 million subscribers,” he said.
Dr Ndemo said the Communications Commission of Kenya would be intensifying its sensitisation campaigns in the rural areas but warns no further extensions will be issued.
Subscribers who fail to register their lines risk having their lines disconnected. Those exempted from the exercisers are the ones on money transfer services and those subscribing for post paid services.
The PS did however point out that those with internet modems would also be required to register their lines.
Tanzania, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe are other African countries that are set to introduce SIM registration in a bid to crack down on criminal activity.
The decision to register SIM cards follows a directive issued by President Mwai Kibaki last year for mobile operators to keep a database of their subscribers following rising cases of phone-related crimes.