Mobile SIM registration linked to digital ID is causing exclusion of marginalised groups, and concerns about privacy in the absence of sufficient legal safeguards, especially in nations with a history of abuse by authorities.
In recent weeks, millions of Nigerians have been barred from making calls after the government instructed telecommunications providers to disconnect their SIM cards because they failed to comply with the government directive to register and link them to their digital ID, known as the National Identity Number (NIN).
Most countries in Africa – 50 nations according to research by Privacy International - and around the world require SIM registration to identify the user. However, Nigeria has gone further by requiring SIM cards to be registered and linked with a citizen’s digital ID, and therefore with the biometric data that it contains. Nigeria is not alone in doing this: some 30 countries globally require SIM registration linked to digital ID including biometric data such as fingerprints or facial images.
Such a registration policy excludes many marginalised groups such as some ethnic minorities or migrant workers without ID proof such as a birth certificates, needed to obtain a digital ID. This locks them out from obtaining a SIM - and therefore from mobile connectivity - and from government services that increasingly require mobile or internet service to access.
Secondly, SIM registration...