Culture of mass registration

I wandered to town inside the week and smelt a sense of panic among mobile phone users.

Actually, the requirement for mobile phone owners to queue at service centres for verification of their sim cards is one reason I am not ashamed to brand the country’s service organisations as lame in thought.

This mass verification comes after many others in recent years, each of which, to me, seems to serve the customer less and less.

Despite technologies that authorities could employ to lessen our burden of the needs of our lives, Malawi has everything to queue for — anytime, anyhow, at any cost to the customer.

In just a few years, you are on the queue for voter registration, phone ‘4G’ network card swap, vehicle licence change or verification, national citizenship registration and bank account or ATM card swaps.

For the driver’s licence, there was a cost I even thought was a careless burden on the holder and not necessary at all.

I sometimes feel I have already given out too much information to authorities.

As a citizen, am I not also paying dearly for authorities’ lack of creativity?

For instance, I have used my same mobile number for many years. I am now even on some mobile money platform—duly registered—by which I can even draw from or deposit into my bank account and take care of utilities such as water, electricity or pay television!

I then thought that by today, my phone service provider, my bank and the other utility operators should have already ‘centralised’ the collection of information among them.

You update with one, you update with all!

You see, my bank can even trust my phone number to ascertain the authenticity of the cheques I push out, which must mean they already have enough of an idea of who I am.

A client’s salary and the current letters of undertaking by an employer make enough validation of attachment to an entity which banks can legally be allowed to call for verification of a customer’s nitty-gritties.

But the banks too sometimes get so funny with their ‘know your customer’ business, loving to see us queue just for petty information they already have reliable access to.

I can only imagine a frail grandmother deep in the rural who now will have to travel several kilometres to a service centre to have her mobile number details ‘verified’.

These frequent, disjointed and unending verifications are a disservice which takes time, money and many other resources in between. This is pure torture.

Next time, service providers must take their overhauls to the people in the village on the service provider’s bill.

The customer is king. Can this now begin to show in the way we conduct business? n


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