Last week’s directive by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) that all mobile phone subscribers register using their national IDs within seven days or face disconnection has left a sour taste in the mouth.
First of all, most subscribers had their phone numbers registered a few years ago, and hence it was believed that there would be no more unregistered phone lines in use.
Typically, unregistered phones continued to be used, more so by criminal elements. This was a failure on the part of the regulator (UCC) and the phone companies, not the majority of subscribers who complied with the registration directive.
It is, therefore, unfair to now stampede mobile phone users with an unrealistic deadline accompanied by a threat of disconnection, as if they are to blame for the loopholes in the old phone registration exercise.
These loopholes were known and should have been fixed long before assistant inspector general of police Andrew Felix Kaweesi was assassinated last month.
The tendency of going to sleep on the job and only waking up to fire-fight, which is so Ugandan, must be discarded. And when those who failed to do their job in the first place wake up late to arrogantly load it over ordinary Ugandans, it is annoying.
As telecommunication companies get on with the nearly impossible task of re-registering all mobile phone subscribers using national IDs within seven days that include two public holidays, many questions remain unanswered.
What happens to people under 16 years who were not registered for IDs but might have mobile phones?
What happens to subscribers who are travelling during this period, or those unable to register for some other personal and legitimate reason?
What happens to the many subscribers, including the elderly and the illiterate, who live in villages and have no luxury of running to a phone company centre, let alone the know-how to use the SMS re-registration option?
This is to mention just a few of the many questions the authorities behind this exercise didn’t address in their desperate bid for immediate re-registration. For the best results, and to avoid yet another round of registration in future, these and other issues should be fully explained.