Pre-programmed smart phones to augment Safaricom’s photo IDs drive

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BY ISAAC SWILA

Giant telecommunication firm Safaricom has embarked on ambitious project aimed at digitising the particulars of its M-Pesa users through a new guideline that will involve taking photos of those who register new sim cards.

The new venture will see M-Pesa’s agents take amongst others, particulars of customers registering new sim-card, including their photos, which will be used whenever they transact business via the platform – for both deposits or withdrawals.

As a measure of ensuring that the venture gets off to a flying start, the telco’s Corporate Affairs manager Stephen Chege told The Nairobi Business Monthly that the company has distributed some 25,000 pre-programmed smart phones to an equal number of its M-Pesa agents for that purpose.

“In simple terms, we want to benefit from the digitisation of processes. At present, customer identity information at the point of purchase of a SIM is recorded manually,” he said, adding, “By digitising how this information is collected and stored, we will be able to exploit this benefit and eventually translate this to other services such as M-Pesa.”

“Digital records are easier to store and link to other services to make interacting with Safaricom and any of our services such as M-Pesa more efficient and frictionless,” Chege said.

“By digitising how information is collected and stored, we will be able to exploit this benefit and eventually translate this to other services such as M-Pesa.”

Using an application in the phone, the agent will key in the customer’s registration details then take a photo of the documents and the person registering.

The measure taken by the firm is not new except that its agents will now, apart from keying in such particulars such as date of birth, full name and place of birth, among others, as captured in the national identification cards, they will also store the images of customers for ease of identification during for transactions.

Safaricom, a market leader in telecommunications, hopes that by taking this path, it will catapult itself to a strong position to exploit customer confidence, which should eventually translate into more businesses for its money transfer service arm.

“This is primarily a subscriber registration tool… the process will enhance the quality of data captured during registration. This will translate to better data integrity, thereby adding to the security of M-Pesa services, as well as other value addition services which are dependent on customer identification,” Chege told NBM. “On the question on the number of dealers who have the device, we intend to progressively issue the device to all dealers.”
M-Pesa, launched in 2007, has proved to be a major success, revolutionising how money is stored and transferred in a country that has traditionally depended on banks and other online money transfer service such as Western Union and Skrill.

In a country with approximately 45 million people, Safaricom currently has around 28.1 million registered customers, out of which 19 million are active users of M-Pesa.

It is anticipated that the new venture, apart from boosting the trust of the customers, will also help curtail the wave of fraud and illegal cash transactions that are pervasive in the country.

In the past, cases of M-Pesa users being conned or duped to into making wrong transactions by criminals has been on the rise, abetted in no small way by the proliferation of cyber crime.

“I’m yet to receive the pre-programmed phone, but I hope that as the programme is rolled out, I’ll get one. It is a good thing and it will reduce the many complaints we have had in the past,” Mary Njoki, an M-Pesa agent based in Nairobi’s Moi Avenue told NBM.

M-Pesa has in the last four years emerged as Safaricom’s cash cow raising a colossal Sh55.1 billion in revenue in its last report. That figure can only grow, on the basis of new registrations.