24 February 2013

Uganda: Reconsider SIM Card Registration Deadline


As it is now, any mobile phone owner who will not have registered his or her Subscriber Identification Module (Sim) card by close of business on Thursday February 28, will not be able to make or receive calls.

The Uganda Communications Commission has told this newspaper that there will be no rethinking of the deadline, as Ugandans have had a whole year to register their cards.

In a sense, UCC has a point. One year is a long time. Indeed, some telecom companies are reporting that up to three quarters of their subscribers have already registered. One question to ask, in such cases, is: what has happened to the remaining quarter?

While some Ugandans have foot-dragged and procrastinated about the registration exercise, the truth is that telecom firms could have been better organized, to say the least. At The Observer, for instance, at least two staff members registered at an MTN outlet at Lugogo months earlier; but this month they had to register again, after being persistently told that their cards were not registered.

An Observer reader writes today to complain that despite registering his utl Sim card twice, he is still told that he has not registered. There are many customers like that. Some of the casual labourers who were hired to conduct the registration exercise have left many a customer praying that the registration will succeed even as they hand in their information and photos - because of the sloppiness and sheer lack of professionalism.

And when one is told, months later, that the registration failed, the casual labourer is nowhere to be seen and the information can hardly be traced. Instead, one is told to register again. This shows lack of respect for the Ugandans who fulfilled their statutory obligations.

UCC has a duty to ensure that subscribers register their Sim cards. Indeed, the commission has done well to publicise the exercise. But some of its partners, the telecom firms, have performed dismally. Perhaps they needed more time than the one year. We urge UCC to consider extending the deadline so as not to punish Ugandans who are already victims of inefficient service providers.

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