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.
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?