A group of activists under the an umbrella organization Rights Trumpet have dragged the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to the High Court civil division challenging the ongoing ‘ambitious’ SIM Card registration verification exercise.
In a statement released last week, UCC Executive Director Eng. Godfrey Mutabaaazi ordered all telecom operators in the country to deactivate all simcards whose holders will not have verified their particulars to match the National ID database.
Mutabaazi gave the operators an ultimatum of seven (7) days, four of which were public holidays to have the exercise completed. UCC’s allotted period expires on Thursday April 20th.
Through their lawyers led by Eron Kiiza the activists say it is unfair for the commission to allow only 7 days for the entire country to have validated their SIM Card registration status.
Currently, Over 21 million Ugandans have registered mobile phone lines, close to 20million are registered mobile financial service users and the activists argue that the seven days are not enough to have their data verified.
“It is unfair and unreasonable to force Ugandans to validate their details in only 7 days. It not only violates the rights to communication but also doesn’t take into account the rights of Ugandans in the diaspora who can’t travel back to have their subscriber details updated in the given 7 days,” said Kiiza.
The available simcard verification exercise is currently by USSD and manually from the service centres. No clear online platform has been announced for use by Ugandans in diaspora to verify of their simcard registration status.
The lawyers also faulted UCC for not empowering foreign Ugandan embassies and High Commissions to conduct the verification exercise.
Several other stakeholders have also criticized and ridiculed UCC’s directive on the same, a policy they referred to as “reactive and uncalculated.”
On Friday April 13th, the ICT Association of Uganda (ICTAU) wrote to Mutabaazi challenging the directive to use strictly National IDs during the registration exercise, saying it was in contravention to the law.
“A great number of people do not have their National IDs for various reasons and are therefore at risk of having their simcards deactivated for factors not with in their control as consumers of telecommunications services,” ICTAU Chairman Board of Directors, Albert Mucunguzi wrote in the letter.
The Uganda Law Society reiterated the same saying the directive is contrary to the Regulation of Interception of Communications Instrument No.42 of 2011.
“This law under regulation 7(3) allows valid identification documents recognized and issued by government agencies such as National IDs, Work permits, National Passports, Driving License, Students’ Identity Cards and Voters’ cards to be used for registration,” Francis Gimara, the President Uganda Law Society wrote.
“If one form of registration is going to be preferred, then these regulations will have to first be amended,” he added.
PC Tech Magazine couldn’t independently verify whether UCC has been served any court summons as the Commission’s publicist Pamela Ankunda could not be reached over the phone.
Rights Trumpet’s lawyers however demand that their issue be handled with urgency since its only two days to the expiry of UCC’s deadline.