HARARE - Zimbabwe is considering licensing BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service, which at the moment is barred by State regulation, an Information ministry official said.
Cosmas Chigwamba, acting permanent secretary in the ministry, said government is in discussions concerning the introduction of the messaging service — exclusive to BlackBerry handsets and the licensing of operators in that regard.
“You are obviously aware of the security threat the service potentially poses,” he said, adding “government has to first ascertain that BBM services do not pause any threat to national security, once this is established, I’m sure the green light will be given.”
BBM is an instant messaging platform that allows users of the smart phone to privately exchange messages which are untraceable by network operators or regulatory authorities.
Several governments, mostly in the Far East, have banned the service because they cannot access data which is stored beyond their reach on the servers of Research in Motion (Rim), Blackberry’s owners, in Canada.
According to the Rim website, they will not hand over their client’s data to governments without the client’s concert.
BBM proved to be a powerful tool during protests in Egypt in 2011.
However, Samsung Android devices in Zimbabwe currently have access to BBM services.
These Android-powered gadgets include Samsung’s Galaxy-branded tablets and smartphones.
As long as Samsung users access the Samsung playstore they can download BBM as an application on their phones and connect through the service.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) will have to receive the green light from the Information ministry to license BBM service in the country.
Zimbabwe’s largest wireless network operator, Econet, applied for the licence in March 2011.
Econet made the application to launch BBM services and a trial availed to BlackBerry users by the mobile network in the capital, Harare, ended abruptly after Potraz argued that the network operator had not been licensed to run the service.
At the time, the regulator threatened to cancel Econet’s operating licence if it continued with the BBM service trials on its network.
The major concern is that the BBM service violates the country’s Interception and Communications Act (2007), which allows government to intercept E-mails, SMSes and phone calls.