SIM Card Registration: The Customer Knows Himself

I will be the first one to admit that whenever I read reports issued by African telecom regulators, I do so with less than honourable intentions. It is difficult to resist the temptation to look for all types of incompetence, knee-jerk initiatives, hefty (and questionable) fines and the attendant flowery language that poorly masks all the above-mentioned ills. I even pull old reports just for gags. I shamelessly intend to continue doing this in 2018 and beyond. It is thus understandable that I found myself reading the report from Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) for the period of 2016-17.

Somewhere in the report, I came across something that is worth sharing.

RURA conducted the SIM card management campaign countrywide in order to minimize communication related crimes/frauds. The population was educated on how to verify and deregister the telephone numbers that are registered on their identity cards. As a result, the population managed to deregister non-operational telephone numbers and those registered unknowingly.

The report does not go into details of how this works exactly but it does present food for thought. Telcos in Africa are investing in platforms to capture, store and validate subscriber data. KYC is all the rage now. Regulations are becoming even demanding and we can predict there will be more fines dished out all around us. Perhaps there is opportunity in enlisting customers themselves to act as quality assurance agents on their own data.

If a customer can query details that relate to his number and confirm accuracy using a USSD command for example, this can form an easy and cost-effective way of having the subscriber database cleaned up. Additionally, there is always the risk that some crook has harvested identification data from other sources and used the data to register SIM cards as preparation for crime. Maybe placing the power in the hands of customers is one way to go i.e. letting customers query how many SIM cards are registered using their documents would cut down these instances.

Sadly the report does not put a metric on the success of this mission but it does not hurt to try the same approach. The risk is significant and operators need all the help they can get.

Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu is a director at Integrated Risk Services Ltd and specializes in revenue assurance. He previously worked as Head of Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management at Vodacom's operation in Tanzania, having previously served in the same role at Vodacom Mozambique.

Before his work with Vodacom, Joseph was an internal audit manager for Airtel, with responsibility that covered their 17 countries in Africa. Whilst at Airtel, Joseph led reviews of the Revenue Assurance, Customer Service and Sales & Marketing functions.

Prior to his stint at Airtel, Joseph was an RA manager at Safaricom in Kenya. He holds an MSc Degree in Information Systems.