A day after telecom companies called for the extension of the phone sim card registration deadline, representatives of government entities have insisted on the deadline, saying it was realistic.
The officials appeared before the parliamentary committee on ICT that is reviewing the matter, reports NTV Uganda.
The committee chaired by the Tororo North MP Annet Nyakecho was directed last week by the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to assess the progress of the sim card verification exercise.
Minister of Security Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde said there were ongoing consultations in order to write a comprehensive report on the registration deadline.
The MPs were concerned that officials of the National Identification and Registration Authority had snubbed the meeting for the third time yet they had a lot of explaining to do.
Hon. Peter Sematimba said that in the interest of national security, government should set and adhere to the deadline for SIM card registration.
Four million ghosts
Waiswa Bagiire, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT said malpractices like sim-boxing are compromising the registration process.
Bagiire noted that the telecommunication companies respect deadlines in other countries but don’t want to respect them in Uganda.
Bagiire shared Statistics from the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) which indicated that four million subscribers belonging to five major telecom players; MTN, Airtel, Africell, Vodafone and UTL could not be verified.
MTN submitted 16.9 million subscribers but 2.5 million Sim cards cannot be linked to any individuals out of the 15.9 million verified, reports The Observer.
For Airtel, 941,000 cannot be tied to any individual out of the 11.2 million numbers submitted while Africell has 542, 111 unaccounted for Sim cards out of the three million numbers submitted to NIRA, Bagiire is quoted telling MPs.
Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) submitted 236,891 numbers for verification but 22,434 are unaccounted for while Vodafone has 1,435 subscribers unaccounted for.
Hon. Akora Maxwell cited a big gap between the Ministry of ICT and the operators. “It’s important for the sim operators, Ministry of ICT and Security to sit and agree on a practical deadline for SIM registration.”
But Gen. Tumukunde asked the ICT committee to give them time to prepare a comprehensive report on the SIM card registration process.
The Ministry of ICT says they are losing their credibility if these deadline keep on getting extended and it makes them look incompetent.
Hon Barnabas Tinkasiimire said a lot of people have not registered their SIM cards because of the failure of government to issue them their national IDs.
Gen. Tumukunde agreed the system of SIM registration is not perfect but that should not stop it. “We can’t improve if we don’t start. Security should be given priority.”
Telecoms demand access to NIRA data
Telecom operators told Parliament Tuesday that they require access to the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) Information system in order to ease verification of subscribers’ Sim Cards.
The deadline for Sim Card verification using the National Identity card was extended from May 19 to August 30 in order to allow more time for telecoms to complete the verification exercise of subscribers who had not yet applied for or received their Identification details from NIRA.
According to Uganda Radio Network [URN], the telecoms say the verification process has been hampered by lack of an application programming interface that can update the subscriber information in real time.
The telecom operators including MTN, Airtel, Africell, K2 among others today appeared before parliament’s committee on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT).
Denis Kakonge, Airtel Uganda’s Director of Legal and regulatory affairs cited a need to gain access to NIRA data so that photographs of subscribers, their names and National Identity numbers are verified instantly.
Kakonge told URN that the absence of the Application Programming Interface (API) is a failure by NIRA to live up to a promise it made in May during a meeting with UCC and security agencies.