Cabinet has directed the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to ease the process of acquiring new or replacing lost sim cards.
Earlier this month, UCC issued strict guidelines on how a new sim card would be acquired. The guidelines that received massive criticism within Ugandan and beyond included production of a police letter, payment of Shs 1,000 in the bank (including bank charges of Shs 2500), a letter from National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA) validating that the sim card holder has a valid national ID card, passport photographs among others.
The poorly thought through cumbersome process would take about 3 weeks, and the most bizarre bit of the process, was that all Ugandans across the country had to travel to the NIRA head offices at Kololo Airstrip in Kampala to acquire NIRA letters.
Now, cabinet has directed NIRA to set up 50 sim card registration centres and provide 50 biometric card readers to UCC so as to ease the process of registration. Col Shaban Bantariza the deputy director Uganda Media Centre says the decision followed a public outcry on the hustle of replacing lost sim cards.
"Those sim card readers will not be reading every detail on your ID. They will be only for synchronisation of identity…When you come to the registration centre and say I want a sim card - of course they give you a form, you fill it up and you present your national ID. The question is, is that identity card yours or not yours and does NIRA agree or recognise that thats you and thats your authentic identity card. That is what the sim reader will do and will only be limited to that," said Bantariza.
UCC executive director, Godfrey Mutabazi was last week quoted saying it would take six days for a person to replace a sim card. With the new process, Bantariza said it could even take a single day for the process to be completed.
Asked whether 50 registration centres are enough to cover the whole country, Bantariza said more will be set up if necessary.
It is believed the bizarre guidelines were as a result of the kidnap and murder of 28-year-old Susan Magara last month. Her kidnappers reportedly used up 17 different sim cards to communicate with her family to demand for $1 million ransom.