The rise of African SIM registration: The emerging dynamics of regulatory change

  • Kevin P. Donovan University of Cape Town
  • Aaron K. Martin Oxford Martin School's Global Centre for Cyber Security Capacity Building
Keywords: Africa, development, financial inclusion, ICT4D, identification, identity, mobile telephony, resistance, surveillance

Abstract

The African experience with mobile telephony has been extolled as a defining moment in the continent’s contemporary economic, social, and political development. Yet SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) registration schemes are threatening to throttle the technology’s developmental potential. These mandates, which require the registration of identity information to activate a mobile SIM card, are fast becoming universal in Africa, with little to no public debate about the wider social or political effects. Whereas some authors have explored the motivations behind these drives, as well as their potential economic impacts, this paper focuses its critique on the broader diversity of implications of this regulatory transformation. Viewing SIM registration through a lens that combines surveillance studies and information & communication technologies for development, it examines elements of resistance across a range of actors, as well as other emerging effects like access barriers, linkages to financialization, and Africa’s budding mobile surveillance society.

Author Biographies

Kevin P. Donovan, University of Cape Town
Research associate in the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town and a doctoral student in the Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan.
Aaron K. Martin, Oxford Martin School's Global Centre for Cyber Security Capacity Building
Associate of the Oxford Martin School's Global Centre for Cyber Security Capacity Building.
Published
2014-01-26
How to Cite
Donovan, K. P., & Martin, A. K. (2014). The rise of African SIM registration: The emerging dynamics of regulatory change. First Monday, 19(2). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v19i2.4351