Christmas at Olsobip
Sensitive & wise stories about PNG women – by a PNG man

The great SIM card mystery – what is going on here?


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. 


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Abu Bakar

I think fingerprints are a valuable advancement in mobile device technology.

Robin Lillicrapp

Somewhere amidst the cauldrons of PNG's socio-political disturbances must lie an understanding of, and a will to pursue prospects of connectivity between citizens and government at levels of technocratic capability not yet realised.
In other countries, presently, efforts to engage populations at a digital level where commerce and banking are conducted online are proceeding apace.
Control-wise, this supposes everybody to possess a bank account, and to transparently interact with Government agencies and employers etc.

Undoubtedly, all of us are becoming aware of the global web entangling us with increasing dependence upon cyber-facilities like computers and mobile phones. Soon, without those aids, lifestyle and survivability will become problematic, to say the least.

Many in Australia are disillusioned with the mammoth cost overruns with NBN's rollout, and its relatively poor efficiency. A recent article on Generation 5 Wireless capability revealed potential efficiency gains yielding Gigabytes of data handling versus the lauded NBN delivery of little more than current ADSL2+ speeds.

It would not surprise me to see PNG developing such levels of management abilities and techniques as would be required in a New World Order magnitude of governance. I reckon they'll all be talking about it at the upcoming forum held in that inordinately expensive Ela Beach clubhouse.

William Dunlop

Don't do as I do, do as I say.

Paul Oates

George Orwell foresaw it all over 70 years ago. Big Brother has arrived and is taking over.

Barbara Short

One fellow commented on the ESP Forum.. As the system gets smarter at the auspices of some smart cookies so as those enemies of the system. One being, how will the registered be deregistered when they are dead and gone? It complicates further when the sim gets sold to a stranger. To begin with, how much confident are we with the data authenticity now in the system, given the rush with agents? I can grab a sim tomorrow, which I will not do in real sense, and register it with made-up data, how good is that? Their own evil intentions will bewitch them. #welcome_to_the_cyberworld.

Bernard Corden

Smartphones with fingerprint security recognition and iridological identification are not merely marketing gimmicks.

Michael Geketa

Phil, it is common that most illnesses before evolving show symptoms. The SIM card mystery is nothing but a sign of what the civilised world frames as 'media control'.

The next thing for us to expect is massive limited media freedom. Am I right or guessing?

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