Cameroon says identification of mobile phone customers will “enhance efficiency”
This is obviously not the first time that the issue is coming up. About five years ago, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications issued directives calling on all mobile telephone companies in Cameron to ensure that their customers were identified and registered. After much feet-dragging, the process finally took place and all subscribers to mobile telephone in the country were supposed to have been identified and their data placed in a server somewhere.
In September 2015, a text signed by the Prime Minister gave new modalities for the identification of all subscribers to mobile telephones in the country. One remarkable innovation in the decision was that no individual could have more than three numbers per mobile company. Most observers expected that the mobile telephone companies were going to follow suit and launch other identification campaigns in conformity with the new regulations. Almost one year after, the process has finally taken off, but with many irregularities.
During the initial operation, there were wanton cases of abuse and neglect both on the side of the mobile operators and the regulatory structure that is expected to protect the rights of the client and the State. People had to queue up for hours on end and there were even cases of deaths as users waited in hot sun to have their numbers registered. Several formulae were experimented before any user-friendly procedure could be put in place to make the exercise easier for subscribers.
Regrettably, the recent resumption of the identification process is still fraught with problems and unanswered questions. Nothing exists to show that anyone has been identified, at least for those who have gone through the long queues to perform the ritual. Mobile telephone companies still seem to negatively exploit the excitement that their products offer by treating customers as helpless citizens. People are made to line up as early as 7 A.M. to wait for the exercise and no one bothers if it rains on them or not. What of those with busy schedules who have to be at their jobs so often?
The multiplication of identification sites at road junctions could have been a salutary move. Yet, no one bothers to communicate on the existence of such places. People only stumble on them or meet some young men and women on street corners and public places offering to identify them. Worse still, messages being sent to subscribers hardly distinguish between those who have gone through the process and those who are still to do so. What happens to the data earlier collected by the mobile companies from subscribers?
Curiously, those who have had security problems posed by con men using fake mobile telephone companies can better tell the story of how difficult it is to identify such contacts. Some of the mobile telephone companies take weeks and even more to produce information on their subscribers. That is if they ever do so! Such a pattern of operation is perplexing and keeps ordinary users wondering if no possibilities exist to know if A or B has already been identified. Could the obstacle be the lack of regulatory framework, complicity between the various operators and the regulators or simply an act of negligence?Whatever the situation, the repetitive nature of the mobile telephone identification process is disturbing and requires more attention than is actually the case. There should certainly be possibilities to avoid users the trouble of having to line up every now and then for the same exercise as if they lacked something to do.