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The Information Communications Technology Association of Uganda (ICTAU) has raised concern over the seven day ultimatum issued over verification of simcard registration particulars by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).

The Commission on Tuesday directed telecom operators to deactivate all simcards whose registration particulars will not be updated to match with the National ID database within 7 days – a period that expires April 20th, 2017.

In an April 13th letter to the UCC Executive Director, Eng. Godfrey Mutabaazi, ICTAU Chairman Board of Directors Albert Mucunguzi said the association was “deeply concerned” that the directive could bear severe consequences for Uganda and the economy.

Mucunguzi who took over the position in October 2016 noted that the 7-day deadline allowed to complete verification of registration status is stringent and impossible to achieve by both telecoms and subscribers.

“The timeliness includes 4 days of Easter during which telecoms will be closed and customers will be busy celebrating festive’s. This makes it impractical for customers of mobile network operators to perform tasks required as per the directive,” the letter reads in part.

He faulted the new policy where UCC directs that only a national ID be used as the valid document during registration citing the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act (RICA) 2013 which recognizes other forms of identification.

“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,” the letter further reads.

With the number of people who probably don’t have National IDs and the limited time allotted before end of the deadline, over a half of phone users in the country could be disconnected if UCC doesn’t reconsider.

If disconnected, many businesses are bound to suffer losses as mobile financial services are by far the most means of transaction in Uganda today and some businesses also survive on staying online.

ICTAU Chairperson Board of Director, Albert Mucunguzi (R) with James Saaka the NITA-Uganda Executive Director.
ICTAU Chairperson Board of Director, Albert Mucunguzi (R) with James Saaka the NITA-Uganda Executive Director.

“Uganda’s economy increasingly relies on mobile money transfers and related services.This directive as written could weaken the mobile money ecosystem by disconnecting a large number of users, thereby causing harm to the whole economy,” Mucunguzi further wrote.

UCC earlier said they would offer mobile operators the ability to validate National IDs using an API by July 31st.

Mucunguzi wondered how the ongoing process would be made possible if the mobile network operators have to verify the authenticity of documents which they haven’t received.

He urged UCC to reconsider the directive suggesting that mobile telecom operators be given ability to verify the National IDs prior to any new registration Exercise or deadline and that the identification document requirements be relaxed.

Speaking to PC Tech Magazine, UCC publicist Pamela Ankunda said the deadline was set to see how the public would comply; adding that other considerations would be made in case the time allowed is not enough.

“You know Ugandans, even if we gave a 90-day period, they would wait until the last day to come and complete the verification process. We gave this 7-day deadline but further considerations can be made,” Ankunda said on phone.

Responding to the issue of National IDs, Ms Ankunda said NIRA would continue to issue IDs to those who have not picked them even during the Easter period to allow smooth running of the verification exercise.

“This is not a re-registration but rather a verification process which one can do at the comfort of their bed. All you need to do is dial *197#, select option 2, follow the instructions you will be verified.”

“For those without IDs, visit the nearest NIRA branch and you will be helped. If you lost your ID, your pariculars are still available in the database and your ID can be replaced, although you might need to pay a search fee,” she said.