Another deadline looms, SIM card registration has become a cat and mouse game in Uganda. The Ministry of ICT (MoICT) made a public communication in 2012 announcing the commencement of this process and this was done hand in hand with the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). On its website, the MoICT clearly stated; “Do not wait for the habitual last minute rush! The only person who should be afraid of SIM registration, naturally, is the criminally-minded who knows that their days are numbered after all existing SIM Cards are registered. Therefore, join the winning team by registering your SIM at the nearest registration centre.”
Fast forward to February 2013 as the original deadline was round the corner, Phone Subscribers and Telecoms companies were up in arms claiming that they were not in position to register all their subscribers due to lack of ample time to do so. They also cited reasons like the challenges of reaching out to the rural areas where a significant number of subscribers exists and potential loss of revenue. The UCC caved in and accepted an extension.
I was one of those that attended a consultative meeting by UCC prior to the previous deadline in which I clearly stated that they should not cave in to pressure from the Telcos and Subscribers since it is a typical Ugandan attitude of always expecting nothing to fall through as panned. I even prophesied that irrespective of the extension given, we would have a repeat of the same cries come the revised deadline.
Its now May 2013 and the deadline is due once again. We are seeing a repeat of the same games the Telecoms in Uganda have become accustomed to playing as evidenced in this article by the Daily Monitor. The Corporate Affairs Manager of MTN, Ms. Justina Ntabgoba is quoted as saying “We still have close to 15 percent of our customers yet to register.”
In my honest view, this is utter hogwash. The telecoms are looking at this issue from the lens of revenue while UCC is looking at it from the lens of security. These two just will never converge and the call is for the regulator to make the tough but wise decision.
Mr. Fred Otunnu of UCC was quoted by the Observer Newspaper as saying that the extended registration deadline would not be changed. This is the time now to see who lives by their word. The UCC has always been accused of being feeble when it comes to pertinent issues and decisive when it comes to issues that ruffle Statehouse as evidenced with the ‘Walk to Work’ protests in 2011.
Mr. Mutabazi and your team, its time to prove to Ugandans that you are not the spineless lot that you have been depicted to be at UCC. Any stay of this decision beyond this year will mean battling it out with the myopically minded politicians who will turn the issue political. Their lazy constituents will send threats of voting them out of power if they don’t stop SIM card Registration and that’s when the real fun will begin.
I love Uganda.