SIM Registration: NCA biodata and NIA database not being matched

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Sim Re Registration Ghana
Sim Re-Registration Ghana

In spite of a claim by the National Communications Authority (NCA) that it needed to capture a second set of bio data for SIM registration to ensure a robust SIM Register, Techfocus24 can confirm that the bio data being captured as part of the ongoing SIM registration is not being verified against that of the National Identification Authority (NIA).

It would be recalled that when NCA and the the Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful insisted on the Ghana Card being the only valid ID for SIM registration, it generated huge public debate, but they insisted that the Ghana Card is the only one of its kind, having the details of all other national IDs, plus fingerprints and digital address.

Ironically, however, the NCA and the Minister, who claim Ghana Card had all it took for SIM registration, introduced the collection of a second set of bio data with an App built by their private sector partner(s). Their excuse-in-chief was that they needed that data to match the NIA database in order to ensure a robust SIM register.

They therefore charged GHS5 for every single SIM card registered in this country, payable either by the telco that captured the bio data or by the individual who chooses to do self registration on a version of the App placed on Google Play Store.

Even though the NCA and the Minister claimed that the second set of bio data was going to be verified against the NIA database, this writer can say on authority that till date, more than one year into the SIM registration process, not a single biodata captured with the NCA-sponsored App has been verified against what is stored with NIA.

This is not even far-fetched as the Executive Secretary of NIA, Professor Kenneth Attafuah even stated in a leaked letter to industry stakeholders that NIA could not vouch for the integrity of the biodata being collected by the NCA for SIM registration, so they could not verify it against the NIA’s bio database.

There may be several technical reasons why NIA could not verify the bio data collected by the NCA, but the most obvious one is that whereas NIA captured actual fingerprints via a touch process, the NCA-sponsored App only took pictures of people’s upper palm in the name of capturing their fingerprint.

Because the two methods of capture are different, it is either impossible or would be very, very difficult to match the two for the purposes of verification.

At some point, the Communications Minister attempted to overstep her boundaries by trying to whip NIA into line to obey her SIM registration deadline, but the NIA boss replied and said the Authority was not built to work with deadlines because its work is in perpetuity. Moreover, the NIA answers to the Minister of The Interior and not of Communications.

NITA

So, till date, the bio data captured with the NCA-sponsored App is sitting on Kelni-GVG’s  Common Monitoring Platform at the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), which is another agency of the Ministry of Communications and Digitalization.

There is no clear plan in sight on how to actually verify that bio data against that of the NIA, and yet the NCA wants Ghanaians to believe that the SIM register being built is a robust one and the robustness is because there is a second set of bio data being verified against the one at NIA.

NIA and Telcos’ Data

The current status quo is that the only verifiable database behind every SIM card registered now are nothing more than the NIA database and the SIM card information sitting with the telcos. The bio data captured with the NCA-sponsored App at a cost of GHS5 per SIM, which also caused long queues and frustrations at registration centres, is playing zero role in the ongoing SIM registration.

That bio data is not helping in anyway to deal with the ongoing mobile money fraud and other forms of digital fraud as promised. At best, it is being stored for the use of some people with vested interest and not for any national course.

Again, another issue of concern is that, between the telcos and their agents capturing the bio data with phones, the NCA-sponsored App, Kelni-GVG’s Common Platform, and the NITA data centre, anything could be happening to the bio data of millions of Ghanaians, including getting into the hands of individuals who may be using it for their parochial interest.

Fraudulent SIM Registration

It is therefore not a surprise that strange SIM cards are being linked to people’s Ghana Cards without their consent.

Indeed, Techfocus24 has also gathered that the kind of fraudulent SIM registration happening now came up in the boardroom from day one, before the process started. Some stakeholders proposed a fix from the onset, but again, the government was in a hurry to capture their bio data for whatever purpose so they set those concerns aside and started the process without a proactive and preventive measure in place.

The NCA is only telling Ghanaians there is an ongoing process to issue a short code (possibly *402#) for people to check SIM cards linked to their cards, when the fraud is happening the media is exposing it.

NIA verification cost   

It is also important to point out that one of the reason’s NCA resorted to capturing its bio data was because the NIA was said to have slapped a ridiculous charge on telcos for access to the NIA database for the purposes of immediate verification. Because the charge was too high, the NCA resorted to the current process, which allows individuals to do the link by themselves on short code *404# and then go to the telco for bio capture (which could have been avoided).

This is a matter that could have been cured if the state had chosen to apply some of the oil revenue to fund the building of a national ID system, instead of bringing in a private sector player like Margins, which has invested a lot of money into the infrastructure and is no looking to recoup that investment.

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