Kenya wants East African States to hasten fake phone switch off

By MACHARIA KAMAU

Kenya wants East African States to speed up the planned switch off of counterfeit mobile handsets and unregistered SIM cards.

 The move is aimed at reducing crime perpetuated using mobile phones.  The Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the continued use of counterfeit handset and unregistered SIM cards in other States negates the progress made by Kenya.

This is due to porous borders as well as efforts to deepen economic integration in the region. “Kenya has already deactivated counterfeit mobile handsets from the mobile networks and outlawed sale of pre-activated SIM cards,” he said.

“Given the proximity of our countries, we need to urgently harmonise the implementation of these initiatives so that East Africans can enjoy the safe use of ICTs.” Kenya has been switching off fake handsets and unregistered SIM cards since late last year in a bid to curb crimes. Such vices include kidnappings, hate messages, money laundering and terrorism committed using cell phones.  Other countries in the region are still in the formative stages of implementing the initiatives.

Matiang’i said EAC States ought to implement similar laws as a matter of urgency to bring down crimes that are committed using cell phones. 

“I wish to underline the urgency to fast-track the switch off because criminal elements within our countries will continue taking advantage of delays in synchronised implementation of these initiatives to export Internet and mobile related crimes to our respective countries.”

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Fake devices

Matiang’i spoke yesterday at the East African Communication Organisations congress in Nairobi.  The meet brings together telecommunication regulators, ICT ministers and other players from the region. “For instance, if the region does not move with haste to deactivate and outlaw the sale of counterfeit mobile handsets, fake devices initially meant for sale in Kenya will find a ready market in other markets in the region. We have noted the continued sale of pre-activated SIM cards in the region is posing a threat to our local attempts to eliminate the use of ICT devices for criminal activities in Kenya. I am sure that other countries in the region are facing similar challenges due to close trade and cultural ties,” observed the Cabinet Secretary.

 Kenya’s counterfeit cell phones switch off late last year  was followed by a requirement to mobile phone operators to deny services to customers that failed to register.  EAC States have commenced processes of switching off counterfeit handsets and unregistered SIM cards.

Uganda is already implementing a SIM card registration initiative while subscribers in Rwanda and Tanzania have until July to register.

“To derive the benefits that come with online services, States ought to improve security within the communications environment, including cyber-security, added CCK Director-General Francis Wangusi. “This will not only enhance e-commerce and mobile transactions, but also create the confidence to grow inter-country transactions.”

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SIM cards Kenya EAC Fred Matiang’i CCK