Gov’t readies SIM registration rollout in isolated areas

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THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on Tuesday said the government is now preparing to reach the geographically isolated and disadvantaged (GIDA) areas that are not yet connected to the internet to help residents register their subscriber identity module (SIM) cards.

“The rollout in GIDA areas will happen as soon as possible,” DICT Undersecretary Anna Mae Y. Lamentillo said during a briefing.

“About 27% of our barangays are classified as geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, and the government will focus on areas that are not yet connected to the internet,” she noted, adding that about 65% of the country still has no access to the internet.

She said the department is coordinating with the telcos as well as the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the rollout in GIDA areas.

“The DILG has already issued a circular reminding the local government units of their role,” Ms. Lamentillo said.

“We are having a meeting tomorrow with the telcos and another meeting on Thursday with the interagency group.”

According to Norman N. Ancheta, Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) division chief, there are already 16,150,926 registered SIM cards as of Jan. 10, with 7,584,321 from Smart Communications, Inc., 7,137,764 from Globe Telecom, Inc., and 1,428,841 from DITO Telecommunity Corp.

Mr. Ancheta said the number of complaints received by the CICC Complaint Center has decreased from an average of 95 complaints during the first week of SIM registration, down to an average of 47 during the second week.

He said that most of the complaints were about the registration process, website malfunction, and where to register.

There were also queries about how many SIMs individuals could register, the registration deadline, and what to do if they entered incorrect details, as well as concerns regarding data privacy.

“Having this Complaint Center (Hotline 1326) gives us in the DICT and our attached agencies a clear picture of the concerns of the public so we can relay them to our telcos, and we are aware if there is already a need to intervene to ensure that we provide end-users an efficient way to register their SIMs,” Ms. Lamentillo said.

The government aims to register at least one million SIMs a day.

“Currently, we are on track, but there could be a lull, and then a surge again once we are near the deadline,” Ms. Lamentillo said.

She also reminded the public to be mindful of fake websites, phishing, and other scams that may take advantage of people trying to register their SIMs.

“Please always check the source of the information before following instructions especially if it comes through email or text messages. Visit only the official websites of your [service providers], and if unsure, you can always contact the 24/7 Complaint Center Hotline 1326,” Ms. Lamentillo said.

According to Globe, there are already reports of individuals taking advantage of the SIM registration requirement. “They offer their services through social media either for free or for a fee and request the name, photo, valid ID, birthday, cell phone number, and address of SIM users,” the telco said in a statement.

“Such personal information, when in the wrong hands, may be used to impersonate their owners, access their accounts, steal money or other fraudulent activities. Identity thieves may also open accounts in another person’s name, run up debt, or commit crimes, causing damaged reputation and financial problems,” Globe added.

In a separate statement, Smart said it is ramping up its rollout of assisted SIM registration booths and touchpoints across the country, particularly in GIDCA areas identified by the government.

“We are ready to help the government in accelerating assisted SIM registration in GIDCA, in collaboration with the newly launched Interagency Response Center for SIM Registration. We are also committed to working with our regulator the National Telecommunications Commission, as it forms a Technical Working Group with other public telco entities like ourselves, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, and other government agencies to discuss further details,” said Cathy Y. Yang, first vice-president and head of group corporate communications at PLDT and Smart. — Arjay L. Balinbin