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Ghana: Phone Chip Registration

(Nov. 2, 2007) It was reported in late September 2007 that Ghana's National Communication Authority (NCA) was introducing reforms in the mobile phone industry. Under the NCA's proposed new regulations, a spokeswoman stated, customers would have to provide such information as name, home address, other telephone numbers, and a form of identification before the seller would activate their pre-paid mobile phone chip. In addition, because the NCA wants to establish a complete database to use in monitoring the industry and tracing anonymous callers and originators of text messages in the event of complaints being made, current customers will have to re-register with their service operators.

An editorial in the GHANAIAN CHRONICLE pointed out that, unlike in industrialized nations, in which security measures including the registration of phones have been adopted to make it difficult to use mobile or fixed-line phones to commit crimes, in Ghana "anyone can walk into any corner of the country, buy a chip and start using it immediately, without any checks done on the person." As a result, "criminals also appear to have taken advantage of the situation by using their phones to threaten people." The editorial cited a recent incident in which "damaging text messages" were circulated concerning some of the ruling New Patriotic Party's presidential candidates, but "the security agencies could not do much because there is no system in place to enable them track down the perpetrators." It noted that the lack of phone registration hampered police investigation of potential terrorist crime, in contrast to Great Britain, where the police "had managed to arrest one of the terrorists who had attempted to bomb one of the airports in the UK because of the mobile phone chip they found at the crime scene." The editorial suggested that the NCA require photo identification and the signature of phone customers and urge mobile phone operators to request such information. It concluded, "[t]he use of mobile phone[s] has become so common in Ghana that it could have serious security repercussions if systems are not put in place to check some of the excesses." (Ghana: Editorial Hails Communication Agency Directive on Phone Chip Registration, THE GHANAIAN CHRONICLE, Sept. 26, 2007, Open Source Center No. AFP20070926631004.)