Learning From Abroad on SIM Card Registration Policy: The Case of Malawi

Learning From Abroad on SIM Card Registration Policy: The Case of Malawi

Frank Makoza (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6367-9.ch018
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This chapter presents an analysis of policy transfer in the context of a developing country. The case of Malawi was analyzed as an African country attempting to implement a mandatory subscriber identity module (SIM) card registration policy. The study used a qualitative research approach and secondary data including government reports and media reports. The findings showed that the SIM card registration policy was transferred through coercive transfer to meet security standards and international conventions, and voluntary transfer to address local social challenges related to the use of mobile technologies. Despite initiating the SIM card registration process on several occasions, the implementation process was met with constraints related to social, economic, and political factors that affected the policy transfer process.
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Mobile technologies have become more accessible and affordable across the continent of Africa. It is estimated that there are about 759 million users of mobile phones in Africa (ITU, 2017). Mobile phones are improving communication for individuals and organisations, access to information and services such as financial services (for instance banking, money transfer and insurance) and public services (health, education, agriculture and managing the environment). Further mobile phones have been heralded in creating employment opportunities and redressing social ills in communities, such as social exclusion. It is, therefore, not surprising that mobile phones are in a way influencing the social and economic conditions of many people in African countries (Ojo, Janowski & Awotwi, 2013; Shaik & Karjaluoto, 2015).

While there are potential benefits to be derived from the use mobile phones, some critics have argued that mobile phones are also being used in criminal activities that pose a threat to the well-being of the citizens (Ahmed, Hague, Guha et al., 2017; Ajayi, 2014; Donovan & Martin, 2012). For example, mobile phones are being used in crimes such as kidnapping, terrorism, drug and human trafficking (Ajayi, 2014). Further, mobile phones are used in activities related to hate speech, glorification of violence, cyber laundering and SMS phishing and spamming (Aririguzo, & Agbaraji, 2016; Donovan & Martin, 2012). To remedy some of the challenges, African governments have adopted mandatory SIM card registration policies where all prepaid mobile phones users are required to register their personal identifiable data for their active SIM cards (Hemeson, 2012; Donovan & Martin, 2012; Jentzsch, 2012).

SIM card registration policy, like other public technology, is a set of actions that affect the generation, acquisition, adaptation, diffusion and use of technological knowledge in a way that government deems useful for society rather than the individual” (Ghazinoory, Divsalar & Soofi, 2008:836). The SIM card registration policies may be transferred through lesson drawing, voluntary and coercive approaches (Dolowitz & Marsh, 2000). The majority of African countries (48 out of the 54 countries) have adopted the mandatory SIM card registration policies in response to the ratification of international and regional conventions for security (Jentzsch, 2012). There are consequently few countries without the mandatory SIM card registration policy (Donovan & Martin, 2014).

This study focuses on the context of Malawi, which is an example of a low-income economy in Africa. The country has not yet implemented the mandatory SIM card registration policy. It was interesting to note how the country will learn about SIM card registration policy from other countries and develop an understanding of technology policy transfer, and the challenges and opportunities of the SIM card registration policy. The study was guided by the research question: How are mandatory SIM card policies adopted in the countries without SIM card registration? The study was important in addressing the paucity of studies on technology policy transfer in the context of African countries (Donovan & Martin, 2012). The study may serve to inform policymakers and practitioners on issues that can inhibit the success of the SIM card registration in the countries without the policy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobile Phones: A portable electronic device that is used to for communication, including talking, texting, and used to access applications from any location.

Mobile commerce: The process of buying or selling goods and services over the internet but using a mobile device such as mobile phone or tablet.

Policy: Government activities that are aimed at addressing social challenges and are executed through programs, processes, and politics.

Data Protection: The process involving use of laws to protect data of individuals from unauthorized disclosure or access.

SMS: Simple message systems is a method of sending text using a mobile device such as mobile phone.

SIM Card: A subscriber identification module is an electronic chip that contains information that is used to provide connection to a mobile phone operator to access different services for telecommunications including voice, data, and payment services.

Know Your Customer (KYC): The process of identifying and confirming the identity of a user of financial services to ensure that all financial transactions can be traced and combat the financing of criminal activities.

Policy Transfer: The process through which government learns on programs, processes, and politics from other context to address its priority areas for meeting the needs of the public or citizens. Policy transfer involves ideas, institutions, laws, and policy stakeholders and beneficiaries.

SMS Spamming: A process of sending unsolicited messages for advertising to mobile phone users without their consent or knowledge which develops unnecessary traffic on mobile phone networks.

SIM Card Registration: The process of recording the details of a SIM card holder using identification documents to such as proof of physical address, national identity documents, passport and driver’s license and storage of the data on a database.

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