Haruna Iddrisu writes on the Abuse of Regulatory Supervision of the Communications Sector and Blockade of Subscribers’ SIM Registration
Instead of promoting the widespread use of communications services, what it is obtaining now is an unnecessary requests for registration, re-registration, multiple registration of SIMs for contrived reasons
For a considerable length of time, Ghana has been celebrated as a shining beacon of democracy, good governance and progress. Commencing in 1994, considerable efforts were undertaken to improve the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure and expand access to voice communications.
By 1998, the first Communications Policy (COMPOL – 98) conference was convened and this culminated in the separation of Ghana Post from Ghana Telecom and the pursuit of foreign investment to rapidly build infrastructure and introduce new technologies. It also placed Ghana in the forefront of the GSM revolution in Africa with a virile competitive telecommunications environment.
The days continued with the development of the country’s optic fiber resources, improved Spectrum, telecommunications regulatory, legal, and policy enhancements granting opportunity to embark on a comprehensive ICT for Accelerated Development and a pervasive application of technology across all sectors, be it in education, health, commerce, environment, governance, security, etc.
In recent times, it appears that the success of the Communications sector is haunting the members of this Government whereby the value of our democracy and is being threatened by emasculation of the networks to intimidate subscribers whose freedoms are regularly subjected to database manipulations.
Instead of promoting the widespread use of communications services, what it is obtaining now is an unnecessary requests for registration, re-registration, multiple registration of SIMs for contrived reasons palpably designed to discourage ownership and operation of SIMs for National Identification purposes.
During the period of COVID-19, so much reliance was placed on ICT usage. In such emergencies and irrespective of the cyber security laws we have in this country, the communications hygiene did not compromise the national identity registration crisis to warrant a blanket blockade of SIM registrations.
Indeed, the irony is that in the search for increased revenue to meet the voluptuous appetite of this government, instead of encouraging the usage of mobile communications to promote the failing of the e-Levy, this government is imposing obstacles to the continuing growth of the telecommunications sector and with it, the profitability and development of the country.
The frustrations in registration of SIMs with telecom companies through third-party private entities and the NIA with a different mandate can only be attributed to the repressive tendencies of this government. In the conduct of the SIM re-registration exercise, basic rights have been overlooked. Communication is a right and opportunity must be given to every citizen to procure communication services.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) actually places premium on Emergency Telecommunication. To completely cut telecommunication services to subscribers for no other reason than to limit usage by citizens is the lowest point in a nation’s telecommunications development. It is a backward regulatory/policy prescription to follow in any regime. Too much reliance of rules/regulations exposes a communications system as immature.
The moment a Telecommunication Regulator reinforces control of the sector through plenty rules and regulations, then it supposes that the sick cannot incentivize to bring competition investments to grow the industry. Countries with mature telecommunication environment have fewer or minimal regulations.
It is indeed time for the country to pay serious attention to the organizational framework of emergency Telecommunications to forestall the recourse to blockade subscribers’ SIMs.
The ITU supports the development of National Emergency
Telecommunications Plans, in ensuring the continued use of ICT networks and services in all aspects of disaster management for saving lives and reducing damage. This would encompass a Plan, legislation, regulation for disaster risk management, capacity building, training, drills and support.
We are calling on the Ministry of Communications and the National Communications Authority to desist from treating the Communications Sector as personal fiefdoms at the peril of the country’s development. We expect more professional and insightful approach to the management of the sector to avoid further worsening of the sector. The present level of competition leaves much to be desired. A return to the monopoly days, or any operation of pseudo-competitive environment or duopoly will be an unpardonable indictment.
MOBILE TELEPHONE AS AN ESSENTIAL EMERGENCY TOOL
Mobile telephone (smart phone) is an essential emergency tool. Owning a cellphone has become regarded as a necessity in modern society. Great advances has been made with smart phone technology and most of us rely on our phones to help us in array of situations such as:
It is an all-purpose emergency kit focusing on specific niche (elderly, medical emergency, medication).
Offer medical help
Locate family members
Detailed survival tips
Alert on an emergency
Help find shelter
COMMUNICATION A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
Today, digitalization and ICT are directly tied to key Fundamental Rights including the Right to privacy and communication “as no person’’ should be subjected to interference with the privacy of his communication’’. (Article 18 supra)
It is the view of the minority that the NCA is acting ultra vires in curtailing the exercise and enjoyment of the Right to privacy of communication.
The government is proceeding erroneously as if every Ghanaian has a Ghana card. This is simply not true, it is not the case.
The ministry and the NCA is simply ignoring the legitimate concerns of Ghanaians who are crying and saying ’we do not have the Ghana card, help us access this public goods.’
Why should the NCA and ministry punish Ghanaians with a blockage of their SIM cards? Isn’t the NCA aware that significant number of Ghanaians especially the poor have not been able to access the national ID that is the only medium for registering through no fault of theirs?
Why is the minister and government for that matter not acting with the same zeal and alacrity and ensuring that Ghanaians achieve a successful transition from analogue radio and television to digital terrestrial radio and television since the switch over deadline has long passed?