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ECZ partners with Zambian mobile operators on SMS voter registration check

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The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has partnered with mobile operators MTN, Airtel and Zamtel to create an SMS system through which voters can check their registration status. ECZ Chairperson Judge Essau Chuulu has confirmed in a statement to IT Web Africa that voters will be able to check their voter registration status through this SMS facility starting in May 2016.

There was speculation that the Zambian Information and Communications Technology Authority was also a part of the SMS check facility but in an official statement they have denied these claims, with ZICTA Public Relations Manager Ngabo Nankonde saying:

ZICTA has no role  in development  or managing of any mechanism  for  transmission  of election   results.   As  an  ICT  regulator,    ZICTA regulates   the  mobile   phone  service providers  through  licensing.  The  mobile   service   providers   are  the  custodians   of their   respective   subscriber   databases  and  not  ZICTA. The Authority   does not  own any communication    network   platform   for  voice  and/or  SMS.

To  this  effect,    the  voters’   register   verification    done  through   SMS is  based  on  a commercial  agreement   between  the  mobile  service  providers  and  their   respective clients.  The Authority  is not privy to such agreements  but only grants approval  of the short  code  for   businesses to  use the  Mobile  platform   for  marketing   purposes  and information   dissemination.

As an  example,   pupils  today  are  able  to  access examination   results  through   SMS platform   using a USSDshort  code.  This does not  mean that  ZICTA has access to  the database  of  examination   results,  but  coming  from  a private  agreement  between  the Examination  Council of Zambia and the mobile  service providers.

ZICTA’s  role  is  to  create   an  enabling   environment   and  ICT innovations   where  it becomes easier  for  businesses and consumers  to  do  business and  interact   through ICTs.

There were concerns that if ZICTA was involved, there could be a possible manipulation of the information being sent out.