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New monitoring system to stem out telecoms fraud

REGULATORY Technology (RegTech), is becoming a key consideration in many African countries including Zimbabwe.  The benefits of RegTech include fraud detection and transaction monitoring as well as increasing telecom tax collections. Zimbabwe recently commissioned its Telecommunication Traffic Monitoring System (TTMS)  set up by Global Voice Group (GVG). Our chief reporter Taurai Mangudhla (TM) interviewed GVG technology director Laurent Sarr (LS) about the implementation journey and the likely impact on Zimbabwe’s telecoms industry. Below are the excerpts of the interview:

TM: We understand the system is up and running, what has been your experience setting it up in Zimbabwe?

LS: We are proud to announce the completion of an advanced platform to effectively support the telecom regulator of Zimbabwe, Potraz, in crucial aspects of its mandate. The setup phase began in 2021 and the experience has been positive.

During the implementation, we had the privilege to collaborate with a professional team from Potraz which enabled us to have a smooth setup of the platform.

The scope of the TTMS extends beyond the monitoring of telecom traffic but covers other important regulatory functions, including fraud management, quality of service of the interconnections, network integrity, and overall compliance of the sector.

This is an additional step in our consolidated track record on the African continent where we have offered ICT and RegTech solutions to governments and regulatory bodies in Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal, Congo, Gabon, Uganda and Rwanda.

TM: What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the implementation of the project?

LS: Covid-19 as we have all experienced, has changed the way we approach projects, with the uncertainty of travel restrictions, lockdowns, shortage of equipment components, and shipment delays among others. It impacted the overall setup of the TTMS creating delays in some of the implementation phases.

The nature of our mission as a company is to support government institutions and regulatory bodies to overcome bigger challenges in their oversight capabilities. We approached this specific implementation in the same resilient manner that we have always done.

That has continued to allow us to build strong trusting relationships with regulatory bodies and government institutions over the past 15 years.

TM: How much time did you spend setting up the system and how much more do you anticipate spending before handing over the system to Potraz?

LS: The set-up of the TTMS started in early 2021. But because of the Covid-19 situation and the different restriction measures put in place by authorities, consultations with the different stakeholders (the operators) and surveys of their respective technical sites were only done in September 2021.

The site survey was followed by the implementation of the platform which was completed in February 2022. Actually, the platform is being managed by a joint technical team of Potraz and GVG engineers.

TM: With new technology comes the question of capacity. Does Zimbabwe have the capacity to run and maintain the system post hand over and if not what will happen?

LS: Zimbabwe has the capability as a country to run and maintain the system. We have more than 15 years of experience working closely with regulatory bodies and government institutions in implementations and our technological approach above all set values on data collection, data sovereignty, capability building and setting the right framework for a nation to boost access to reliable data for regulatory oversight of key economic sectors, such as the telecoms one.

TM: What are the implications of the TTMs to operators, subscribers, and the Government of Zimbabwe? Give estimates where possible and timelines. 

LS: TTMS provides an answer to Potraz’s strategic agenda to adopt new technologies in the regulatory framework of the country. It enables solid telecom metrics for tax collection purposes, fraud detection, and market compliance with regulations to protect consumers and operators in Zimbabwe.

GVG is primarily a RegTech provider that designs regulation technologies from the point of view of regulators in the telecoms, financial, and banking sectors who face an information gap as well as a technological gap in the exercise of their mandates.

Our mission in Zimbabwe is to bridge these gaps for the benefit of all stakeholders. TTMS enhances the oversight capabilities of Potraz to the benefit of the State, the industry, and all citizens. By enabling the regulators to see, in real-time, what is going on in the telecoms sector, while improving the governance of a sector that plays a major role in the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe.

By fighting telecoms fraud and enabling the operators to identify and block in time the fraudulent lines on their respective networks, the TTMS offers a way of mitigating revenue leakages related to such illegal practices and offering a better quality of service to their subscribers.

TM: Can you briefly explain how the system really works in terms of the technical aspects?

LS: TTMS is designed to provide, through non-intrusive technologies connecting Potraz to the regulated sector in real to near real-time. It’s a digital platform for telecoms regulation that uses passive probes to connect the regulator to the regulated industry in order to collect telecom data in real-time for compliance monitoring, transforming identified data into pseudonymised and thus ensuring data privacy.

Pseudonymisation is the process of switching personal data set into an alias or pseudonym. Users of digital services, whether they are individuals, companies or authorities or governments, need to have the assurance that their personal and professional data are dealt with in accordance with the data protection laws and regulations.

The data we collect and process comes directly from telecom networks and relevant mobile transaction streams and we ensure reliable data aggregation and have pioneered the mining of telecom data for critical purposes.

TM: What is the future?

LS: We see a future ahead. Zimbabwe has taken an important step forward on its road towards strengthening its digital economy and the country’s digital approach toward regulation aligned with the Smart Zimbabwe Master Plan regulation. GVG’s role in Africa has always been and will continue to be bound to the utilisation of RegTech. By enabling governments and regulators to monitor compliance, RegTech allows them to be proactive about it, as well as reduce the cost and burden of compliance measures across the regulated industry.

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