In a bid to cut crime, the government in Kenya has started to register all mobile phone numbers in the country. Any numbers still unregistered at the end of July will be disconnected, the government says. Apparently, it has come to light that kidnapping gangs often use unregistered mobile numbers to text ransom demands. According to the government, mobile phones must be registered because they could now be used like computers.
Officials say the mobile phone has become a tool of banking, it can be used to steal data, transmit unauthorised information and perpetrates huge frauds. Information ministry official Bitange Ndemo last week said registering the numbers would help the authorities tackle terrorism, drugs-trafficking and money-laundering, as well as the sending of hate messages.
In neighbouring Tanzania a similar exercise has already started. It is now common in the region and not seen as controversial. Registration have now started in earnest as thousands queue to have their numbers registered. The country has about 20 million mobile-phone users – about half the population – and has a well developed mobile-phone banking network.
In Africa, about 97-99% of mobile-phone subscribers use pre-paid vouchers, as they find it easier to use pre-paid vouchers without registering an address. But registering people in some African countries may be difficult if they do not live in a house with an official address. And some people are not literate enough to know the need for proper identification.
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