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The person you are trying to reach is available. How will Ukraine benefit from the registration of sim cards?

Registration of sim cards is not beneficial for those who are engaged in spam mailing, who create fictitious call centers, and swindle pension cards’ details from elderly people.

You heard the song but got it wrong. This popular wisdom relates to what happened when the public began to discuss the registration of sim cards very loudly.

For those who are unaware of people’s indignation, I will try to put you in the picture.

On July 19, a draft law appeared on the website of the State Special Communications Service. This draft law suggested introducing mandatory registration of all sim cards. In this case, all means even those that have been lying around for years. The authors of the bill provide 3 months for government departments and businesses to comply with the new rules.

This is where emotional outbreak happened. The society traditionally divided into two camps. The “fifth column” was the loudest shouting that registration of cards automatically entails the disclosure of personal data, censorship, restriction of freedom of speech and so on. But let’s consider the problem from different perspectives – the legislative one and in terms of international experience – and make a conclusion on the basis of the Ukrainian realities.

I do understand the intentions of the State Special Communications Service, which has instructions from the Cabinet of Ministers to develop such a bill. The irony is that a bill “On Electronic Communications” (No. 3549-1), which describes the order for providing electronic communication services, has been pending in the Verkhovna Rada for almost two years now. And this order entails signing of a contract or a compulsory registration of subscribers by the service providers.

This bill was prepared together with all market participants and with the active participation of the industry associations. Moreover, about a month ago representatives of state bodies, including the State Special Communications Service, law enforcement agencies, and telecom operators gathered at a meeting of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Informatization and Communications. We all actively discussed the issue of sim cards registration. Nobody doubted the need for such a procedure; the telecom operators only asked to set realizable deadlines in the regulatory acts and to give them time to estimate the investments necessary for organizing the work of databases and storing information. As far as business is concerned, I understand the fears of operators to lose their subscriber base, market shares, money.

The information and emotional breakout that occurred because of registration of sim cards is nothing more than a manipulation. As soon as Ukraine tries to protect its cyberspace and ensure the virtual security of its citizens, such confrontations begin. With the beginning of an active political season, such “information campaigns” will be strengthened, and we can only hope for impartiality of the media.

In terms of common sense, I support the need to register sim-cards. Firstly, I have never used a prepaid sim-card myself, and the status of a contract subscriber does not violate my personal rights in any way. It should be understood that the opponents of this change are those who are engaged in SMS spam, who create fictitious call centres and swindle pension cards’ details from elderly people, who toss active mobile terminals to our checkpoints in the war zone and thus tip off our enemy. I do recognize the fact that such a step in the context of the fight against terrorism is not a panacea. But after the tragic events in Spain, our Western colleagues said that registration of sim cards allowed them to increase the crime detection rate by 80%. And, most importantly, it helps them to prevent crimes.

Obligatory registration of sim-cards appeared in 2003; nowadays this procedure works in more than 80 countries. However, many experts and people’s deputies relate to the experience of countries that have failed to implement such a system. Among them there are Mexico and Russia. As for me, the more Russia fails the better. Meanwhile, in Poland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Norway, Australia the procedure for registering sim cards is working. And no one sees any attempt on personal freedom in it.

In order to make the procedure work in Ukraine, we have to understand that a much longer term than three months – which are prescribed in the draft law of the State Special Communications Service – is required. We will need at least a year to register the current unregistered subscribers. It would be wise to set a transition period of up to 3 years for voluntary registration in order to reduce the degree of public discontent. By the way, this has been done in Belgium, for example. To make this possible, we need to ensure that these “volunteers” will have the advantages of contract subscribers: mobile ID activation, additional services, cheaper rates, preferential traffic, etc. Moreover, registration of sim cards is beneficial for mobile operators. After all, their future is not in voice traffic, but in mobile financial services and various e-applications. All this cannot work for anonymous users a priori.

Therefore, no matter which way you look at it, almost everybody is interested in registration of sim cards: the state, business, users. Those against are the ones who are used to living beyond the law.

Oleksandr Danchenko
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