What you need to know:
Why register? It will help law enforcement agencies identify mobile phone owners and track criminals who use the phones for illegal activities.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has said it is in the advanced stages of compiling and tallying data in the SIM card registration exercise.
Speaking to this newspaper last week, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director, said the process will be closed at the end of this month. “We dispatched teams to various parts of the country to collect data on the exercise which we shall add up this week to get the real picture,” Mr Mutabazi noted. “I cannot tell the exact figures of how many have been added on but I know it’s above the 80 per cent.”
Against the pressure from Parliament, UCC granted a 180-day extension to the service providers; 90 days for registration and another 90 days for verification of the captured data. This, Mr Mutabazi said, was enough for the telecom companies and would give time to UCC to complete other procedures, before they can embark on switching off all the unregistered SIM card users. “We may not grant extensions for the exercise this time,” he warned.
Registering of SIM cards started in March 2012 and was supposed to end on 28 February. However, the exercise was marred by technical glitches on the side of the telecoms, until an extension was granted.
Failure to allow an extension would have meant that at least 9.6 million mobile phone users would have been switched off.
Uganda currently has 16 million phone users of whom UCC says only 70 per cent have registered their SIM cards. UCC publicist, Fred Otunnu also maintained that they were waiting for the team dispatched to compile the data across the country, which will serve as the springboard to end the process. “We are going to resume our reminders across every platform in these remaining days such that we don’t ride on excuses again,” Mr Otunnu said.
The exercise was imitated by 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.
Attempts to get comment from the respective telecom companies on the progress of the exercise were futile by press time. Since the exercise was launched on March 1, 2012, telecoms have highlighted absence of national IDs as the biggest challenge to registering their subscribers mainly in rural areas.