By Steven Candia
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) will switch off mobile phone owners who will not have registered their cards by August 31 and that there will be no further extension of the registration process.
Speaking at a press conference, security minister Muruli Mukasa said sufficient time had been given and the exercise must, therefore, come to an end.
He said to date, 92% of the subscribers had registered their cards, leaving out a paltry 8%. It is estimated there are 18 million mobile telephone subscribers in Uganda, which means at least 1.4 million haven’t been registered. The highest number of unregistered subscribers is said to be in rural areas.
Sim card registration is intended to help deal with fraud, enhance national security and fight mobile phone misuse.
“I now declare that the registration of existing SIM cards will end on August 31, 2013 and all unregistered SIM cards will be deactivated,” Mukasa said at the UCC conference hall in Bugolobi, a city suburb.
Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director, was emphatic on the issue of no more extensions to the exercise.
“The deadline is end of this month and I can assure you that I won’t invite you here again on this matter,” he said.
“We cannot do this exercise forever. After the end of this month, all cards that have not been registered will be deactivated,” he said. The closure of card registration will bring to an end the 18-month exercise that got underway on March 1, 2012 but has dragged on due to several extensions.
In May, the Government extended the registration exercise by another 90 days to allow telecom companies verify and validate all collected data.
Mukasa and Mutabazi appealed to members of the public who have not yet registered their cards to use the remaining days to do so. “When your sim card is deactivated it means that you will not be able to make or receive any calls or send and receive any text messages,” Mukasa said.
The final closure of the exercise, Mukasa said, will bring Uganda in step with other countries in the region such as Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda which have completed the exercise meant to among others, enhance security and curb crime, especially with the advancement in ICT.
He allayed fears about the misconceived purpose of the exercise. “The subscriber data collected is not intended to witch-hunt any individual or group of individuals but rather to protect them from criminal and illegal activities conducted using mobile phones among others,” Mukasa said.