Thursday February 28 2013

UCC to extend phone SIM card registration deadline

By Sheila Naturinda

Mobile phone SIM card registration will not be closed today, MPs on the House committee on ICT heard yesterday.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is today expected to announce an extension of the deadline to 180 days although service providers had requested for an extension of 365 days.

Mr Patrick Mwesigwa, the acting UCC executive director, yesterday said the one year requested by service providers is too long.

“In view of the request and challenges, we shall consider the extension and give a public statement tomorrow (Thursday),” he said, adding: “There is a good cause for us to consider an extension.”

UCC officials indicated that the regulator has already considered extending by 90 days for registration and another 90 days for verification of the captured data, although all this will be dependent on the outcome of today’s consultations with service providers and the Ministry of Security.

Some MPs on the committee had felt a one year extension would be appropriate considering the challenges in rural areas, while others asked for an immediate termination of the process, citing what they called the lukewarm response to such government matters.

“We shouldn’t punish those who haven’t finalised the process because of their economic inability even as we need a disciplined way of responding to such programmes,” said Bukhlooli Central MP Wafula Oguttu.

Mr Oguttu cited his constituency where one must walk 11 km to access the nearest registration centre in Bugiri Town after paying Shs5,000 for an LC letter coupled with other expenses of photocopying and taking a passport photograph.

Registration
Registering of SIM cards, which started in March 2012, should have ended today and a failure to allow an extension would have meant that at least 9.6 million mobile phone users would have been affected.

Uganda currently has 16 million phone users of whom UCC says only 70 per cent have registered their SIM cards.

The process started after the passing of the Interception of Communications Act 2010 which required compulsory registration of all cards.

The owner of the process is the Ministry of Security which designated UCC to oversee the implementation. Among its objectives is to help law enforcement agencies identify mobile phone owners and track criminals who use the phones for illegal activities.

snaturinda@ug.nationmedia.com

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