The government plans to keep a database of all mobile phones in Indonesia, including their IMEI identity number that will link each phone to its legitimate owner. (Antara Photo/Novrian Arbi)

Only New Mobile Phones Will Be Registered With ID Numbers: Government


JULY 29, 2019

Jakarta. The government's plan to register the unique 15-digit international mobile equipment identity, or IMEI, number on each mobile phone sold in the local market will not apply retroactively to existing mobile phones already being used, an official said over the weekend. 

The government has been mulling over the plan to register the IMEI number on all mobile phones sold in Indonesia since the beginning of this year in an effort to stop people from illegally importing them.

These unregistered phones are estimated to account for a fifth of all phones being sold in the country today. 

But the plan has been met with strong resistance from users who fear the policy may result in privacy and data breaches and is merely a "Big Brother" ploy to spy on them. 

"There's no need for all this anxiety. The policy will not apply retroactively. Only [IMEI numbers] on new mobile phones will be registered," said Ismail, the director general of informatics appliances at the Communication and Information Technology Ministry. 

The regulation governing the policy is being finalized by the ministry along with the Industry Ministry and the Trade Ministry. According to Ismail, the final regulation is set to be issued on Aug. 17.  

Once the new regulation is in place, Indonesians who buy a mobile phone in a foreign country must report it to the authorities and pay an additional tax or risk their device being blocked on local networks. 

The government will also keep a database of IMEI numbers linked to their legitimate owners. 

Indonesia has been trying for some years to become a manufacturing hub for handheld devices. Last year the country started requiring smartphone makers like Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi and Oppo to fit a certain amount of locally made components in their devices to be able to sell them here. 

The manufacturers complied either by setting up a partnership with local manufacturers or open a research and development center – as Apple did. 

But these manufacturers are now complaining that, after all that effort, they are still being beaten in the local market by illegally imported phones, which often cost Rp 2 million to Rp 3 million [$141-$212] cheaper. 

Hasan Aula, the chairman of the Indonesian Mobile Phone Association, said around 45-50 million mobile phones are sold every year in Indonesia. By his estimation, if a fifth of those were illegally imported, around Rp 22.5 trillion of the sales would be off the government's record.

This means the government stands to lose around Rp 2.8 trillion a year in taxes, Hasan said.