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Kenya follows Tanzania in requiring mobile SIM card user registration.

Is this a knee jerk reaction? Or a well thought out plan to improve security and reduce crime in Kenya? To be honest I have no idea but the directive issued yesterday by President Mwai Kibaki that all mobile users in Kenya have to register their mobile SIM cards, by the end of the year, sounds eerily like what Tanzania did a few weeks ago and I blogged about here.

At the time I wrote the Tanzania post, I expected that this unprecedented action of requiring mobile users to register their SIM cards in East Africa was something of an oddity and had hoped it would take other countries in East Africa more time to go the same route, if ever. However, the escalating security issues in Kenya and unabated crime wave clearly are the main drivers behind this course of action. Never mind that the directive is not actually law (yet) per se as it is not included in the recently passed ICT Bill but its happening nevertheless.

The implications will be huge for most of Kenya’s 16+ million mobile subscribers. I wonder how the logistical challenges of getting ALL of these mobile SIM cards registered will be tackled. Also, are the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and the Ministry of Information and Communications equipped for the task at hand? As well as the various mobile networks?

I am also curious as to whether mobile SIM card registration will actually result in a more secure Kenya since criminals will probably find a way around the registration process, eventually, if not initially. Lastly, mobile SIM card registration in Kenya, as is the case in Tanzania, may give the Government an overwhelming level of access to personal information on the Citizenry, which could potentially lead to human rights abuses. Whatever the case is, its happening, your mobile SIM card will have to be registered, and Big Brother will be watching!

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