Over 7.5 million mobile phone numbers face deactivation
More than 7.5 million mobile phone numbers in Ghana are likely to be deactivated come March 3, 2012, the legally set date by which all SIM cards in country should have been registered.
The latest Summary of Data Verification for the SIM registration, available from the National Communication Authority (NCA), indicates that as at February 6, 2012, 5,580,875 various identity cards presented for SIM registration were rendered invalid.
Meanwhile there is another 1,457,858 cards that have been submitted but are yet to be verified by the respective agencies such as the Passport Office, Electoral Commission (EC), Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), and the National Identification Authority (NIA).
Again the NCA has confirmed that as at January 16, 2012 the total number of data submitted for verification stood at 22,708,716, which the NCA said was 98% of the total number of mobile subscriptions in Ghana; so the remaining two per cent, which is about 463,443 subscriptions have not even bothered to register.
So in total, 5,580,875 plus 1,457,858 plus 463,443, which is equal to 7,502,176 (33%) mobile subscriptions face possible deactivation come March 3, 2012, some through no fault of theirs.
Out of the total IDs either declared invalid or unchecked, 3,048,242 are MTN numbers; 2,066,301 are Vodafone numbers; 936,143 are Tigo numbers; 924,216 are Airtel numbers, and the remaining 56,355 are Expresso numbers.
The data also shows as at January 16, 2012, MTN had submitted 9,162,599 registration data for verification; Vodafone came second with 5,425,911 submissions, Tigo came third with 4,821,288 submissions, followed by Airtel with 3,103,779 submissions and Expresso followed with 195,139 submissions.
The NCA has recently stated in a press release it would not extend the March 3, 2012 legally mandated deadline, no matter what.
It has therefore asked the telecom operators to follow up with their subscribers whose registrations have been declared invalid to go regularise their registration or they would be deactivated on March 3, 2012.
The telecom operators face sanctions under the newly passed SIM Registration Regulation if they refuse to deactivate unregistered numbers on March 3, 2012.
But the telecom operators have argued that, in as much as they are ready to deactivate the 463,443 subscriptions, whose owners have not bothered to register, and of those whose ID cards were actually found to be fake, they have a difficulty deactivating those whose registration may have been made invalid due to human error at either the registration or manual verification point.
In several meetings between the NCA and telecom CEO's, the latter have argued that they have managed to get back to several of the subscribers to go regularise their registration but those subscribers submitted the same identification cards and particulars, which were declared invalid during the manual verification at the various agencies.
The telecom operators provided a common short code, 400, to which all subscribers on every network are required to send a blank text message and receive a reply that would indicate whether one's SIM card is registered or not.
The telecom operators have also pointed to a situation where several subscribers are likely to take legal action against the operators for deactivating them because those subscribers might have submitted valid and genuine particulars for registration, which might have been declared invalid due to human error during the verification process.
Adom News is reliably informed that the whole verification process is nothing more than a group of people hired by the NCA and placed at premises of the various identification agencies to do a manual check of IDs people submitted against the hand-written records in those agencies.
Information reaching Adom News, for instance, indicates that, at a particular agency, those doing the verification sit under trees because there is no space in the offices for them, and they work under very lax conditions, which creates room for human error.
An official in charge of the verification process at one of the agencies said on grounds of anonymity “I have stopped going to the office because this whole process is not working – it is not very efficient – we are kidding ourselves.”
But the NCA insist most of the problem came from registration agents who work for the operators, saying most of those agents registered persons without valid IDs and with fake IDs.
Some NCA Board members are said to have insisted “this is a national exercise and we will not allow foreigners (the telecom operators) to dictate to us on this.”
The NCA bosses have also said they are ready to meet anybody in court if any deactivated subscriber feels aggrieved and takes legal action.
Meanwhile the NCA is said to be installing some automated verification equipment in the course of this month, to help do verification quickly and more efficiently and get the actual invalid registrations ready before March 3, 2012.
This move by the NCA is being interpreted to mean the NCA itself acknowledges there are flaws in the current manual verification process, and yet it insists on the telecom operators deactivating subscribers based on an admittedly deficient verification process.
Meanwhile the technical guys at the telecom companies say that automated equipment need to be tested to ensure the results it generates are reliable, and that takes time, but the NCA seem to gloss over that as well.
So as things stand now, 14,521,639 Voters' ID have been submitted to the EC for verification, and 14,401,259 have been verified, out of which 12,508,613 (86.9%) were valid and 1,892,646 (13.1%) were invalid; the remaining 120,380 are yet to be verified.
For NHIS card, so far 4,281,852 have been submitted to the NHIA for verification, and 4,053,884 have been verified, out of which 2,105,070 (51.9%) were valid and 1,948,814 (48.1%) were invalid; some 227,968 are yet to be verified.
In the case of Passports, 1,415,869 have been submitted to the Passport Office for verification so far, and 1,222,619 have been verified; out of which 509,830 (41.7%) were valid, and 712,789 (58.3%) were invalid; the remaining 193,250 are yet to be looked at.
So far 1,406,555 Drivers' License are with the DVLA for verification, and they have verified all of them, but only 452,875 (32.2%) were valid, and a whopping 953,680 (67.8%) were invalid.
Finally, 1,090,277 National ID Cards have been submitted to the NIA for verification and they have verified only 174,017, out of which 101,071 (58.1%) were valid, and 72,946 (41.9) were invalid; and an overwhelming 916,260 have not been verified yet, and all those people face deactivation through no fault of theirs.
But the opportunity still remains for subscribers to check if their SIM card is registered by sending a blank message to short code 400 on all networks.
Story by Samuel Nii Narku Dowuona/Adom News/Ghana