Ghana charges fees for biometric SIM card registration with self-service app

The Ghanaian government is introducing a self-service, fee-based mobile app to expedite the country’s ongoing SIM card re-registration exercise, according to a recent announcement by Ghana’s Minister of Communications and Digitization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful , reports local media. The announcement was met with mixed feelings.

Recall that Owusu-Ekuful announced an extension of the deadline for all users of SIM-enabled devices in Ghana to be able to re-register their SIM card with biometrics until September 30, 2022, during a press conference on July 28 in Accra.

The extension, which was the second after that of March 31, 2022, became necessary, according to the minister, after it turned out that millions of active SIM cards for voice or data services were still not registered to July 31.

She said around 26 million SIM cards had yet to be identified, citing figures from the National Communication Authority (NCA). Ghana’s population is approximately 33 million.

While announcing an extension of the last deadline, the Ghanaian Minister of Communications and Digitalization has pronounced other accompanying measures aimed at easing the SIM card re-registration process for millions of citizens.

One such measure is the introduction of a mobile application to be used by phone users to re-register their SIM cards from the comfort of their homes, without having to visit registration centres.

The app was supposed to officially roll out on August 2, but it’s unclear whether it actually saw use.

Unknown technology vendors

It is also unclear who provides the app, but Ghana has contracted a Kenyan company in the past to provide a mobile app for biometric SIM card re-registration by officers.

A video report from Citi TV Ghana clearly depicts the collection of contactless biometric fingerprints with an app, although the process is agent-led rather than self-registration.

There are only a handful of developers providing contactless fingerprint software technology, including Idemia, Telos ID, partners Integrated Biometrics and Sciometrics, Identy, Tech5, Veridium and Winning.I.

Owusu-Ekuful said the launch of the new app was delayed due to the cost of acquiring it, but said the government decided to impose a surcharge of GH5 ($0.58) so the app could self-finance.

The introduction of the application did not go well. Ghanaians have raised data security issues related to the app, or the alleged illegality of the surcharge for using the app.

Graphic Online cites Ras Mubarak, a former Kumbungu constituency legislator, who questions the legality of the fee.

In a statement released under the aegis of an association dubbed ‘Concerned Mobile Network Subscribers’, Mubarak says the minister does not have the power to charge fees for using the app without getting approval. of Parliament.

Mubarak believes that having had parliamentary experience herself, Minister Owusu-Ekuful should have known better that parliamentary consent was needed on such a sensitive issue. The Minister argued that the purpose of the app surcharge is not to make gains.

Another concern over data security and fraudulent registration through the app was raised by Osei Kwame Griffiths, former IT officer of the National Identification Authority (NIA), according to GhanaWeb.

Griffiths reportedly told Ghanaian radio station Accra 100.5 FM recently that using the app could compromise personal data submitted if there is no strong data protection mechanism. He added that the move could also lead to fraudulent registrations, as he questioned the effectiveness of submitting biometric information remotely.

Meanwhile, the Mobile Money Agents Association of Ghana has criticized the government for the two-month extension, saying it is too short to register the millions of unidentified SIM cards, according to reports from the Ghanaian Times.

Article topics

Africa | biometric enrollment | biometrics | contactless | fingerprint biometrics | Ghana | identity verification | mobile app | SIM cards

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