Govt starts countdown to sim card switch-off, sets up technical team

Dr Rugunda shares a light moment with Lt Gen Tumukunde in the main conference hall at the Office of the Prime Minister after the press briefing. Photo by Vincent Kasozi.

A high level technical committee to ensure a seamless implementation of the sim card verification deadline has been announced by the government.

The announcement comes 24 hours after minister for security Lt. Gen. (rtd) Henry Tumukunde told Parliament that the August 30 deadline for deactivation of unverified sim cards will be enforced.

Today during a press conference, Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda reaffirmed this position which was made final during a meeting last evening between relevant government agencies and ministries.

That meeting came up with nine decisions regarding the sim card shutdown.

Among these is the formation of a technical committee which will consist of representatives from mobile network operators and officers from the NIRA, NITA and UCC as well as the ministry of security.

Dr Rugunda was accompanied by ICT minister Frank Tumwebaze and Lt Gen Tumukunde at the briefing. He assured the public that NIRA will, after the deadline, continue to register and issue National IDs and verify the National Idenification Numbers (NIN) of those who decide to have their sim cards registered and verified.

“It will only be after confirmed verification of a submitted NIN by NIRA that any sim cards that will have been cut off will be reactivated,” Dr Rugunda said.

He noted that the Application Programming Interface (API) allowing for instant verification by telecoms will be installed, greatly cutting down on verification time.

Mobile phone operators informed MPs on a joint committee early this week that the API that had been promised in May had never been installed. This has led to a lengthy and manual verification process where sim card subscriber details are sent to UCC, which then remits them to NIRA for verification, a process that lasts three to five days.

The premier said that those subscribers with mobile money accounts who will have been deactivated after the deadline will be able to withdraw their balances for a limited time. However, he noted that this limited period will be determined by the technical committee.

The Prime Minister also sent a stern warning to individuals who may try to manipulate the verification process by using NINs other than their own.

“Any other means used to register sim cards other than those prescribed by the law is illegal and shall attract sanctions accordingly,” he warned.

“Illegality will be treated as illegality and maybe we need to give notice to the public that we have the capacity to tell when things are not right,” Lt Gen Tumukunde assured.



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