UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabaazi shakes hands with IGP Gen Kale Kayinura.
UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabaazi shakes hands with IGP Gen Kale Kayinura.

Members of the ICT Association (ICTAU) – Uganda’s umbrella body for private-sector players in the  ICT Industry – spent most of the day debating UCC’s latest directive on SIM Registration.

While addressing  journalists on Tuesday morning, UCC Executive Director, Eng. Godfrey Mutabaazi gave a directive that telecom operators should 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.

He further reiterated that the only identification documents that will be used in registration of new sim cards would be National IDs for nationals, Passports for Foreigners, the OPM database for refugees and URSB documents for Companies.

Members of ICTAU have also been raised about the legality of UCC’s directive excludes known forms of identification as student ID, drivers permit, work ID among others.

Others have referred to the directive as the “reactive nature of UCC’s policies” which doesn’t consider applicability; adding that they (UCC) are now matching on orders like the military due to Kayihura’s involvement.

Whilst UCC gave the 7 day ultimatum to telecoms to register customers using national ID, PC Tech Magazine understands that they have not given telecoms the access to the national ID database which implies telecoms can’t verify national ID information supplied by subscribers.

UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabaazi shakes hands with IGP Gen Kale Kayinura.
UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabaazi shakes hands with IGP Gen Kale Kayinura.

“We have not even started to understand the unintended consequences of this decision,” noted Badru Ntege, pioneer technologist and Chairperson of the ICT Committee of the Private Sector Foundation (PSFU).

“We need to urge the decision makers to rethink how to achieve full registration without causing adverse economic impact to our already stretched economy,” added Ntege.

Mobile Financial services have extended banking services to most rural areas of the country, catering for the low income earners that can’t afford a conventional Bank account. It is also one of the most convenient ways to remit funds both within and outside the country.

That notwithstanding, rural areas still lack access to telecom service centres since most of them are concentrated in city centres and towns. UCC however requires all registration and updating to be done at service centres and specific designated outlets.

“I work in Kaabong. The next busy town is Kotido. And the Next to those is Lira and Abim respectively. They are about 93 km and 81 km from Kotido. In all these towns, there is No MTN, UTL, Vodafone, Airtel, Africell, Smart, Smile, Rock telecom Service center,” said James Marunga, a member of ICTAU.

“Now as per UCC Directive, I have to waste a full day, Spend 50,000/- to Update registration of a Line of 2000/-? UCC should focus on its mandate because I think the regions of Acholi, Teso, Lango and Karamoja are going to be cut off from the system,” he added.

ICT Consultant James Wire says the “decision is out of touch with reality’ wondering whether UCC thinks they are ‘managing a home.”

“Do they realistically expect even 50% of the Ugandans to get sorted within one week? Which world are they living in?” he wondered.

“Meanwhile of the seven (7) days given, four of them are taken up by the Easter Holidays. For a country that is over 70% Christian, why do you think they will leave their celebrations to attend to an exercise that was caused by your incompetence?”

Mr. Wire described the 7-day ultimatum as a “poorly thought through decision that only serves to lay bare the incompetence of the institution we are meant to look up to for guidance.”

ICTAU Chairperson Board of Directors, Albert Mucunguzi, commenting on the Association’s discussion forums noted that the directive does not favor some of the Non-Governmental Organizations and Agencies which have no certificates of incorporation yet want to continue with communication.

“How will [such] be handled? Like UN Agencies, NGO’s and Government Agencies that don’t have Certificate of Registration and are chartered either by the United Nations or Government?” he wondered.

He says some of the Commission’s guidelines don’t seem to consider the prevailing conditions; wondering; “what’s the rationale for the seven days’s deadline?”

UCC Speaks Out
Through her Twitter account, UCC publicist Pamela Ankunda said that UCC and NIRA offices countrywide will remain open throughout the Easter Break to allow the smooth running of the sim card verification process.

Efforts to get further comment from Ms Ankunda were futile as our phone calls went unanswered.