Year-long Thin SIM ‘live test’ will go on, industry regulators tell MPs

Nairobi; Kenya: Central Bank Governor Njuguna Ndung’u and senior officials of the Communications Authority (CA) yesterday told MPs that the rollout of Thin SIM on a trial basis for the next one year would not be stopped.

They said the rollout would proceed because it was the only way to check the vulnerabilities in the technology and seal loopholes before Equity Bank is granted a freehand to move into the mobile money market.

The CBK Governor said the financial and communications industry regulators had worked together to ensure all the technical aspects of the innovation had been considered.

Identify risks

“There’s nobody in this world who has used the Thin SIM card technology to provide mobile money services. We have no one to learn from, that’s why we have this testing period. Once we identify the risks and agree on how to mitigate them, then we will move on,” said Prof Ndung’u during a meeting with the House committee on energy and communications in Nairobi’s Continental House.

He added that once the Equity Bank platform is in the mobile money domain, CBK audits would make sure everything was above board. He said as far as CBK was concerned, the technology would be used for money transfer, obtaining credit, airtime purchase and payment of bills.

He said the live test would be monitored by an independent systems security auditor to ensure transactions made through the platform are secure.

CA added that the audit of the system was sanctioned by its board on September 29, and that an advertisement for a qualified firm to do the monitoring had been placed two days ago.

The authority told MPs that they should allow the live test because, so far, it was the only way to vet the system and gauge its use.

“It is what we did with M-Pesa, and as you can see, it has proven to be a world-class innovation that has put Kenya on the global map. It is our belief that adopting similar innovations will improve information and communication technology services in the country,” said Mr Perminus Karungu, a manager at CA.

“We cannot stop innovation. All we can do is test it, assess it and make sure that it helps us achieve our goals.”

The regulator also asked MPs not to be paranoid about the risks of the technology.

“Anything that is electronically transmitted is vulnerable. The issue is the magnitude of the risks involved, and how to mitigate the issue. We are not talking about 100 per cent security because technologically speaking, that is not possible,” said CA’s Mutua Muthusi.