On Tuesday, August 2, 2022, government will launch a self-service app on both Android and iOS for the ongoing SIM registration exercise. The app will enable users to capture both their Ghana Card details and biodata remotely, in the comfort of their homes and offices, at the cost of ghs5 per SIM card.
Communications and Digitalization Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful announced this in addition to announcing the extension of the SIM registration deadline to September 30, 2022.
So, if you have ten SIM cards to register, and you decide to use self-service either because that is convenient for you or maybe you are like some friends of mine who live outside of the country very often, but have their Ghana Card and want to secure their SIM cards in Ghana, that is GHS50. But let’s be conservative and say all you have to pay is ghs5, no matter how many SIMs. Whatever the case may be, it is still unfair to charge Ghanaians for something like this, for a number of reasons.
Let’s do some mathematics before I state my seven reasons:
Just last week, the Communications Minister said 12 million Ghanaians had linked their Ghana Cards to their SIM cards, but not all of them had actually gone to their respective telcos to complete the registration process with the bio-capture. So, let’s say 10 million have done bio-capture, and we are left with 2 million to do so.
Secondly, National Communications Authority reported that in April 2022, there were more than 41 million active SIM cards in Ghana. Let’s even be conservative and say these 41 million SIM cards are owned by 17 million unique individuals, out of which 10 million had completed SIM registration – that leaves 7 million more people, including the 2 million who have linked but are yet to do bio-capture. Out of the seven million, let’s say 5 million decides to use self-service due to the convenience it offers and also in a bid to beat the deadline – that multiplied by GHS5, comes to a cool GHS25 million for the people who created and are managing the app. Clearly, this is a create-loot and share, and I will explain it further down.
Now let’s get to it:
- First off, bio-capture is not rocket science that should cost us any money as individuals. iPhone captured my biodata when I was setting it up to use. Even my Stanchart Mobile App, SC Mobile captured my biodata. So, what is so special about this one that I have to pay to use it?
- The delays in the SIM registration is, largely, not the doing of individual citizens. For one, it was the government’s decision that all other ID cards are not fit for purpose except Ghana Card and so every Ghanaian had to rush and get a Ghana Card, which has also created a huge backlog for the National Identification Authority (NIA), leading to delays in delivering people’s cards to them even after registration. As a result, millions still don’t have their Ghana Cards to even go for SIM registration. That cannot be the fault of the citizens. It is a choice the government made in the interest of the state and it comes with cost, which they must be ready to bear, instead of passing it on. In any case, Ghana Card already has our biodata, but for some strange reason, NCA still wants to capture our biodata again, so why do we have to pay for it, even if it is self-service?
- Government was the one who decided to set a deadline against all the advice that such a process does not require deadlines because SIM cards will be bought and registered forever, so why set a deadline and now use it to push people to opt for self-service and then you charge them for it? It does not make sense. Government will argue that the deadline was necessary to weed out SIM cards that are not properly registered and are being used for fraud. But would the Ghana Card really stop the use of phones for fraud? Well!
- Government’s own exclusive app created by Kelni-GVG for capturing biodata for SIM registration became sloppy at some point and delayed the whole SIM registration process, causing untold frustration for millions who queued for hours to get their SIMs registered. As a result, a lot of those people and many others have not bothered to go back to the registration centres to complete the process even after linking their Ghana Cards to the SIM using short code *404#. So, as things stand now, quite a number of the 12 million who had linked their Ghana Cards to their SIM cards have not completed the process and now government and its cohorts in the private sector want to cash in on those millions who have not completed the process and make easy money from an exercise which should and must be totally free for Ghanaians. That’s a NO!
- Government should have included a free self-service opportunity in the equation from day one. If they had done that, we would have gone very far with the SIM registration by now. But they had it down their sleeves, only waited to cash in on it in a time like this, while we are facing challenges created by no one other than the government and its cohorts. They should have created the self-service app and gotten it ready for the exercise even before starting it on October 1, 2021. There was no need for a rush, just to create a problem and pretend to offer a solution at a cost to citizens. That cannot be right. The needless rush by this government to do stuff before thinking through them is causing more harm than good to us.
- For sure the app and its management have to be paid for. But why can’t National Communications Authority pay for it with all the millions of dollars they collect from industry players in surtaxes, fines, licensing and authorization fees and the several others? They have money to put up needless storey buildings in the regions, pay for trips for all kinds of government officials to attend several conferences abroad, build houses for staff and all that. They have put up a luxurious office building and rented portions out to big companies, why can’t they pay for an app for Ghanaians to get free self-service? After all, the fines they charge from defaulting operators is because those operators short-changed us the customers – so, what is our benefit if we still have to pay for an app NCA is using to capture our data?
- Speaking of capturing our data, if not for anything at all, why should we pay NCA to capture our data so they can monitor us? Not many of us consider this, that the ruling party, NPP for instance, had access to our phone numbers and they sent us loads unsolicited political campaign messages during the 2020 election. They broke the law in that instance, and they most likely got our details from Kelni-GVG, which is an NCA agency that has free access to our data. So, why should we pay just to put ourselves in such a risk?
Having said all that, let me say that self-service is not compulsory. You have a choice to use it or not. But the way things are going and how the current free app keeps breaking down and creating queues and frustration, plus the delays at NIA with Ghana Card, people will end up using self-service for convenience and to beat the deadline, and that is the more reason why it has to be FREE of charge.