Pakistan Considers Extension to Biometric Cell Phone Registration Deadline

unsplash_525f012329589_1The Pakistani government is considering an extension to an ambitious program to have all cell phone users provide biometric authentication of their identities. In an article for The International News, Jawwad Rizvi writes that while the original goal was to have all 103 million users registered by February 26, 2015, at the time of writing only 31 million users had been verified.

The initiative is a securitization effort undertaken in the wake of the tragic school attack in Peshawar last December. The government made arrangements with the country’s five cellular operators to implement the new initiative, and they agreed to discontinue service to any users who hadn’t signed up by the deadline. Now, with such a small percentage signed up as the deadline approaches, they stand to lose a lot of business, and are petitioning the government to extend the deadline. Rizvi reports that there are presently substantial queues of people trying to provide their biometric authentication, and that may be persuading many others to wait until those lines die down before proceeding to register themselves.
Pakistan has shown increasing levels of interest in the uses of biometric technology in recent months. Last November the country’s Finance Minister announced legislation that would enhance digital commerce in Pakistan, and the State Bank of Pakistan signed an agreement with the country’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to implement biometric authentication methods for eCommerce. It’s worth noting that Pakistan’s neighbor India is pioneering the most ambitious national biometrics project in the world, which might be helping to persuade Pakistani officials of the technology’s many benefits.
February 11, 2015 – by Alex Perala