TUMBY BAY – That keen observer of Papua New Guinea affairs, Busa Wenogo, informed us recently of the push by NICTA, Papua New Guinea’s National Information & Communications Technology Authority, for phone owners to register their SIM cards or face de-activation.
The widespread installation of telecommunications towers throughout PNG has significantly changed the lives of many Papua New Guineans who are now able to communicate with ease to all parts of the country.
So any interference in this capability looks very much like Big Brother at work: a reactionary effort from the O’Neill government to control what is published on social media.
The objective of SIM card registration appears fairly innocent and useful but once you pry into the details it gets decidedly suspicious.
Here is what the regulation says: “The objective of this regulation is to provide a regulatory framework for the registration of all SIM card users, and for the control, administration, and management of the subscriber information database”.
It’s that subscriber information database that is most worrisome. The information going on to it includes “the subscribers photo, name, date of birth, gender, address (postal and/or physical address), email address, etc. and details of valid identification documents of the subscriber”.
They want to know where you live and your email address; they also want a photograph of you. The obvious question is why?
That’s when it gets even murkier.
The reasons they give on the official NICTA website are to “help law enforcing agencies to identify SIM card owners; track criminals using phones for illegal activities; curb other negative incidents such as loss of phone through theft, nuisance/hate text messages, fraud, threats or inciting violence, and help service providers know their customers better”.
With regard to the confidentiality of the information NICTA says “Your personal information will be kept confidential by the service provider in a secure data base. Your information shall NOT be disclosed to any person unless authorised in writing by law enforcing agencies or court of law.”
That last bit is the killer, the cops and the courts can authorise disclosure. Handy if you have the Police Commissioner and/or the Chief Justice in your pocket.
There is now less than a week left to register your SIM.
According to Digicel you have to “visit a SIM registration point closest to you. Remember to bring your ID along. Fill in a form and submit it to the agent.
“The agent will then capture a few details and take a picture of: the form; the ID (passport, NID, driver's license, work ID); the individual.
“It is a regulatory requirement. We must have some form of ID and we have made the list of applicable IDs as wide as possible. If you do not have an ID, a letter from a reputable person will suffice. We are unable to provide a SIM card without an ID or letter.”
Alright, you are one of the four in 10 people in PNG with a mobile phone. You live in a village on the Yuat River near where it meets the Central Range.
You are about 120 kilometres south of your nearest Digicel agent in Wewak.
Assuming you’ve actually heard of the new regulation and have got a driver’s licence or some other form of identification how are you going to get down there to register your SIM?
If you don’t your SIM could be de-registered and you’ll lose your service.
Makes for an interesting time I think.