25 August 2017

Uganda: Govt, Telecom Firms Flex Muscles Over SIM Card Deadline

Photo: Alex Esagala/Daily Monitor
People wait to register their SIM cards at an MTN service centre in Kampala recently.

Government insists it will take no heed of telecommunication companies' pleas to extend the deadline for Sim card verification after it expires on August 30.

The bold warning comes two days after some telecom companies requested an extension because they had not verified all their subscribers' Sim cards.

But two ministers yesterday insisted that government will not review the August 30 deadline.

Security Minister Henry Tumukunde told the parliamentary committee on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that the decision was agreed during a recent meeting with Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, in consultation with ICT Minister Frank Tumwebaze and Internal Affairs minister Gen Jeje Odong.

Tumwebaze revealed that another consultative meeting with Rugunda, ministers and telecom companies will be held to discuss the issues arising from the players.

"Consultations notwithstanding that is the current position. As we continue to consult, we may find reason to change this position but as of now, that is the situation as pronounced by government," he said.

The minister, who chairs the steering committee, said the companies will make their case before government, which will then come up with a final decision.

During a meeting with the committee on Monday, telecom companies said they needed an extension of the deadline because the verification process has been hampered by a lack of an application programming interface (API) that can enable updating the subscriber information in real time.

The companies said they have been unable to access data, including photographs, names and National Identity Numbers (NINs) of subscribers from the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) in order to verify data instantly.

However, Odong said the meeting of the taskforce in April agreed that APIs will be operational by the end of this month.

"It was agreed that the APIs will be established and will be up and running by August 30. It will then ease the verification exercise because after all, when the deadline is reached, we will switch off the unverified Sim cards. When you have been verified, you will be activated," Odong explained.

The minister also presented updated figures on Sim card verification, indicating that 31.3 million subscribers have been forwarded to NIRA for verification.

Out of these, 25.3 million subscribers have had the data used to register their Sim cards corroborated with information in the NIRA database, while 4.66 million subscribers were not found.

At least 1.3 million subscribers were located as multiple occurrences where subscribers have more than one phone number attached to them and use similar NINs. The data of 36, 555 subscribers was sent in a wrong format and could not be imported into the database.

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