Tokens, Cards and Someone’s Forehead!

Imagine I had three bank accounts in Calabar, four in Accra, one in Baghdad (oil money! J) and another in Cape Town! For each of these accounts I have to do some online transfer or the other at some point. Here and there in my globetrotting I have to use my debit cards. Interesting how easy it has become to do business electronically. It is almost reliable. I say almost because I live in Africa.


Recently my country thought they could better protect online banking by compelling commercial banks to issue hardware tokens to their customers. It has something to do with Two Factor Authentication being more secure. Without BOTH my password and a six digit number generated by my token, I cannot login or make perform a transaction on my bank’s website. Incidentally, these codes were previously sent via SMS or to my mailbox. Holding hardware token is considered even more secure.


Hmm … Hardware tokens, cards, and of course the ubiquitous mobile devices that showed up in Africa within the last two decades. The worry for me is, assuming we are still here fifty years from now, what happens to these cards we have to change every three years or so, the mobile phone and gadgets which we change every two or three years as well and then the hardware tokens which have to be abandoned whenever we switch banks. What happens to them? Where will the used and stolen leftovers end up?


I even overheard them saying they want to put some chip at the back of people’s right hand or forehead. Like my friend would say “Heeerrrrrr”. I saw something like that written somewhere and it was not very good news. But of course, wouldn’t it seem so convenient to have phone, token and cards all in one chip that you can never lose and that can never be stolen? Again. “Heeeeerrrrr”…. Dangerous things are often attractive to the unwise.


Back to what is in the present: If there is no way to recycle all this electronic waste we are generating, we will certainly have some new disease-causing phenomena to deal with if we are still here in fifty years. We will have much more to fill up our Green Earth agendas. Africa might just continue to be a dumping ground for toxic waste. Someone should be thinking about that.