Mobile telecommunication companies are seeking a twelve month extension of the registration exercise.
It is almost 48 hours to the 1st of March deadline set by the Uganda Communications Commission for all mobile phone owners to have completed registration of their simcard.
Appearing before the Information, Technology and Communication committee this morning, the companies including Orange, MTN, Airtel and Warid and Uganda Telecom companies say this will allow the operators to update and clean up their records.
They argue that all the countries that have successfully completed this exercise have taken more than two years which makes it unreasonable for government not to extend their registration period.
They add that with the current numbers, it would appear that approximately 40 percent of their subscribers base might ideally be barred from making calls as of 1st March. This they say will negatively affect the great strides already made by the industry as recognized in its policy framework for the financial year 2012/13.
Currently approximately 60 percent of the total subscriber base in the country has been registered.
The Chief Executive and Managing Directors of the telecom companies also cite challenges such as the public’s lack of understanding of the objective of the exercise. Subscribers fear that giving one’s personal details will open up to scrutiny beyond their control.
There is also an identity crisis since the mandatory registration assumes that every person using a mobile phone has a valid identity card be default. The telecom companies’ say those in informal and no employment have to incur costs from 1000 to 10,000 shs which local council officials are demanding for to process an ID. Which means to meet the cost, the subscriber makes a decision to delay their registration until they get the money to meet the cost. This is worsened by the extra cost of getting photos to affix on the ID.
They further cite high illiteracy levels with subscribers failing to write legibly and spell their names correctly. Some also fail to understand the importance of the terms and conditions for the use of the Sim card.
There is also cultural and information barriers where some persons have similar names thus the need of additional informational such as next of kin and parents name. A number of subscribers are unable to give these details because they either do not know the official names or are protective of the information due to taboo or other cultural norms.
The telecom Managers also reported that toward the end of last year, the sought for and obtained permission from Kampala City Council Authority to set up registration service stations at certain locations.
However KCCA charged 200,000 shillings per day for each registration point and they subsequently cancelled registration permits for operators which makes it difficult to register city dwellers.
The time taken to process the information is also a challenge since it takes between two to three weeks registration from to get to Kampala and be cleared as sufficient to be entered in the data base.
The committee chairperson MP Paula Turyahika explained that as a committee they could not resolve the matter adding that they shall raise the telecom company issues to UCC tomorrow when they also appear before the committee