Kenya Registering Mobile Phones to Reduce Crime

Safaricom's Internet Broadband Dongle (with SI...
Image by whiteafrican via Flickr

About half of the population in Kenya have a mobile phone although before now all its mobile phone users were not required to be registered. However, the Kenyan government has decided to start registering all mobile phone numbers so as to significantly  reduce the country’s growing crime rate. Consequently, all mobile phone users will now have to provide identification documents and proof of address before a mobile number can be purchased. Likewise, unregistered users are expected to register their numbers before the end of July or risk having their numbers disconnected.

Kenya is not the first country to require some form of registration by mobile phone users, Mexico started a national register of mobile phone users in 2009 that includes fingerprinting customers and a similar exercise was started recently in Tanzania. While supporters claim that having a database of mobile phone users in a country will help curtail criminal activities such as kidnapping, terrorism, drugs-trafficking and money-laundering , privacy groups maintain that database schemes are disproportionate, impractical and potentially unlawful.

Talking Point

Do you think it is a good idea to have a national register for all mobile phone users? How successful do you think such plans will be particularly in Africa where most mobile phone users prefer to use pre-paid vouchers and some do not live in a house with an official address?

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  1. I don’t think it will work to reduce crime. After all, if I know that the authorities can trace me via my phone number, I definitely wouldn’t use it to communicate with others if I’m doing anything illegal. Moreover, you can always use fake identities to register the numbers if you are into criminal activities.

  2. We shall in future be required to log our identity details by showing such a thing as a passport in order to obtain a mobile phone in the UK. Is this going to be of practical assistance in reducing crime, or simply an irritant to ordinary people?

  3. In a way it will deter many from committing mobile related crimes. The popular MPESA application for money transfer is used by conmen to defraud mobile users of their money.

    With every good technology, there are people who will try to use it for fraudulent purposes

  4. I know that this is an old post but just thought it was interesting.

    Gerald…i heard about the MPESA. Not sure how that worked though!

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