Stakeholders in Uganda’s Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector have downplayed government’s move to make Uganda Telecom (UTL) Simcards a mandatory requirement for every citizen.
In a discussion via the ICT Association of Uganda (ICTAU) forum, stakeholders described the move as “sad and unfeasible” considering the storm that the telecom is going through.
“I find it very sad that instead of catering for Ugandans with other mandatory things they go for such bad move for the economy, said Badru Ntege, a technology opinion leader and founder of NFT Consults.
While addressing UTL staff at the company’s blood donation drive, Investment and Privatization Minister, Evelyne Anite announced that government would make it a mandatory requirement for every Ugandan to own a UTL simcard.
Anite said the move was meant to display of patriotism and pride in for the country and its citizens.
“I want to tell you something; that once we fix the problems in UTL, it is going to be compulsory for Ugandans to hold a UTL line just as it is for you to have a national ID,” she said.
But opinion leaders in the ICT sector say Uganda Telecom is incapacitated to hold as many connections as the citizens in the country.
“UTL does not have the money to buy the needed 20 odd million cards nor the network capacity to handle that many subscribers. Typically no one has thought through the process,” added Ntege.
UTL has recently been grappling with financial constraints that saw it put under government receivership.
It declared bankruptcy in May 2017 amid fear of liquidation.
Players say for government to interest people to join the network, they need to invest in it and “ensure proper management with a vision to revive the company, not revival by force.”
Kenneth Kintu, another player in the sector says the move which they branded patriotic is unfair to other private telecom service providers.
“The bigger problem here is the mentality of the people in the government pushing this as patriotic which kind of implies private companies are not patriotic and therefore should be worked against,” Kintu said.
Others wondered whether Uganda has taken time to ask from other countries whether any government forces its people to use a particular network.
“They can even suggest to reject other numbers for official business address and contact transactions the way they are rejecting passports for Sim registration,” said another participant in the conversation.
Currently, there are close to 10 telecommunications operators in Uganda, most of which have a bigger reach and superior infrastructure compared to UTL.
This coupled with the financial issues that the company is going through leave no chance of competition to the state owned telecom.