The Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation will, from October 2021, start the registration of mobile phone subscriber identification module (SIM) cards to help stem fraud and criminal activities through the use of mobile telecommunication devices and systems in the country.
It will be done concurrently with the registration of handsets and equipment.
The government will also regulate the sale and purchase of communication devices through a central equipment identity register (CEIR) that will be set up.
The database from the two-in-one exercise will enable regulatory authorities to ascertain the accurate number of valid SIM cards on the various telecommunications networks.
The exercise, which will begin from October 1, this year to March 31, 2022, is expected to cover about 40 million subscribers, after which all unregistered SIM cards will be blocked.
The sector Minister, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, who announced this at a press briefing in Accra Sunday [September 5, 2021], said the previous effort by the government to register SIM cards failed because of the lack of a verifiable secure identification document.
As a result, she said, only the national identity card (Ghana Card) shall be accepted for the registration of the SIM cards of citizens, foreign residents and foreigners staying in the country for more than 90 days, while foreigners staying for less than 90 days could use valid passports or other travel documents for the registration.
“Every subscriber is required to provide the name and residential or occupational address, date of birth (in the case of an individual) and certificate of incorporation (in the case of a body corporate) or registration (in the case of a partnership or an unincorporated body of persons) and an identification document,” she added.
According to the minister, the SIM Regulations Act, 2011, L.I. 2006, mandated network operators or service providers to activate a SIM only after the subscriber had registered it as directed by the National Communications Authority (NCA).
“Individuals can register a total number of 10 SIM cards across all networks and foreigners will have a limit of three SIM cards across all networks.
“Let me caution here that people should not think that they can hide behind businesses and register as many SIM cards as they want,” she said.
To help protect citizens’ data, Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said, registration details would be accessed only on receipt of a court order to aid the law enforcement agencies to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute fraud and other criminal activities.
It would also aid emergency and national security in matters such as terrorist attacks, disasters and public health emergency cases, he said.
“The data will be stored in a Central SIM Registry at the National Information Technology Agency, with very restricted access to the database. There will be strict compliance with the Data Protection Act 2012 (Act 843). Furthermore, the Data Protection Commission is a major stakeholder in this exercise,” she said.
Evasion of taxes
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful further said although mobile device manufacturers estimated that about five million mobile devices were imported into the country annually, the necessary customs duties and taxes were paid on only 60 per cent of the imports, hence the need for the registration.
She added that the unregulated market in the country had also resulted in a thriving black market, with sale of smuggled mobile devices, high incidence of device theft and cloning device identifications.
“Smuggled devices are sold through visible retail sites, unofficial retail outlets and online websites,” the minister said.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful also said the government would, this year, train 3,000 girls in the Western North, North East and Savannah regions in information and communications technology (ICT)-related programmes.