By David Mugabe and John Agaba
ICT experts from the East African region have met at the Kampala Serena Hotel to discuss the proposal of having harmonised call rates across the member states.
The two-day workshop attended by representatives from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan discussed developing a road map towards the reduction or elimination of in-region roaming.
This would mean telecom subscribers, regardless of their providers, can use their sim cards across the region at the same rates. Opening the meeting, Godfrey Mutabazi, the Uganda Communications Commission executive director, said the harmonisation is in line with the East African integration.
“We are working towards the East African common market. Why should it be cheaper to call America than across the region?” he asked.
Telecom firms have in recent EAC deliberations been faulted for being bystanders in the integration, yet they play a critical part of enabling business and trade.
“Why do I have to have a sim card for Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya? Why not have one sim card and the telecoms share the revenue?” asked Dr. Enos Bukuku, the EAC deputy secretary general, at a recent EAC meeting in Nairobi.
Only Airtel has some sort of integration with the “One network” tariff plan, where a subscriber retains their line and uses it in any of the states where Airtel exists and are charged the local rates of that country.
The development comes after the states agreed at the end of last year on a single tourist visa for foreigners intending to visit the region. The meeting also discussed the integration of Internet broad band strategies across the region.
If these strategies are harmonised, it would reduce the cost of Internet, especially in inland countries such as Uganda and Rwanda. The meeting also discussed the possibility of harmonising sim card registration regimes and subscriber data verification and the integration of E-governance services across the region.
Mutabazi said the harmonisation of the ICT sector would advance information technology in the region because the different ministries will be sharing strategies. He added that providers who are allowing subscribers to place phone calls with unregistered sim cards, would be penalised.