The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has extended the Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card registration for three more months until May 31.
Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC Executive Director, announced on Friday that the extension would help complete the registration of the remaining subscribers. He explained that 11 million out of the 16 million telephone users representing 70 percent had registered during the 1 year exercise, which begun on March 1 2012.
Mutabazi added that the exercise had been slowed by long distances to registration centres in some rural areas, a culture of postponement by users, delay to upload the manually-collected data and fees charged by Local council chairpersons for introductory letters among other challenge.
He said the ministry of Local government has been asked to write to the Local council authorities to desist from charging residents intending to process documents to help them register their SIM cards.
He explained that the registration exercise, provided for by the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, would help combat crime and establish the phone users’ database.
Mutabazi also granted telecommunication companies an extra three months after May 31 to enable them verify the data collected at the end of the registration exercise.
He however warned that telecom service providers who would be found with unregistered subscribers on their network would be prosecuted.
Critics have for long argued that the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, which provides for the SIM card registration lacks adequate safeguards to ensure respect of a number of rights, including the freedom of expression. They say the Act does not define the basis for interception of communication therefore giving government unrestricted powers in surveillance and interception of electronic, telecommunications and postal communications between individuals, groups and organisations.
Mutabazi acknowledged that there was apprehension among the phone users over the intention of the SIM card registration, a factor he said was among the reasons for the slow pace of the exercise.
He however said the exercise would uphold the privacy of the subscribers.