UCC Breaks Silence on Why National IDs Are Needed for Acquiring a SIM Card

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The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has announced significant changes to the country’s SIM card registration process to bolster the security and accountability of communication services.

In a recent tweet (X), the UCC provided a comprehensive overview of the reasoning behind the requirement to use National IDs for SIM card registration and replacement.

Previously, Uganda’s SIM card registration system faced numerous challenges due to the reliance on various identification documents such as passports, village IDs, employment IDs, and LC letters. The absence of a central system for validating these documents led to issues with multiple identities and an unreliable database.

To address these challenges, the introduction of the National ID in 2015, along with subsequent legislation and regulations, marked a significant shift. The National ID, which includes a unique National Identification Number (NIN), became the mandatory document for SIM card registration in Uganda. This change provided a more reliable and verifiable method for identifying SIM card users.

In 2018, a biometric verification exercise was conducted, requiring SIM card users to present their National IDs at telecom service centers for verification. This measure ensured that the SIM card user was indeed the owner of the presented ID.

The UCC has emphasized that the National ID plays a crucial role in enhancing security and accountability within the communication sector. By enabling the unique identification of every SIM card user, the National ID minimizes the risks associated with anonymous communication and helps maintain a secure communication environment.

For individuals who have lost their National IDs, the UCC advises obtaining a confirmation letter from the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA).

This letter, containing registration details and the NIN, can then be presented to the telecom service provider for SIM card registration or replacement.

Historically, SIM card registration in Uganda faced challenges due to the reliance on various identification documents like passports, village IDs, employment IDs, and LC letters. The lack of a central system for validation led to issues with multiple identities and an unreliable database.

Below is a full Tweet

SIM CARD REGISTRATION WITH NATIONAL ID

Following concerns expressed on this platform about SIM card registration or replacement using National IDs, we have provided the background to this requirement in the following write-up:

The requirement to use the National ID in SIM card registration stems from the need to improve the safety and accountability of using communication services.

a) Initial Challenges with SIM Card Registration

•Before the National ID was introduced, telecom operators registered SIM card users using various identification documents such as passports, village IDs, employment IDs, and LC letters.

•This method was unreliable because there was no central system to validate these documents, leading to multiple identities and an unreliable database.

b) Introduction and Implementation of the National ID

•The 2010 Regulation of Interception of Communications Act demanded the registration of all SIM card users, but the absence of a National ID system made it challenging to enforce.

•The 2015 Registration of Persons Act made it mandatory for all Ugandans to register and obtain National ID cards with unique National Identification Numbers (NINs).

•The 2015 Registration of Persons Regulations specified that the National ID would be the mandatory document for Ugandans to register for SIM cards.

•The 2018 Biometric Verification exercise required all SIM card users to undergo biometric verification using their National IDs. Users had to present their National IDs physically at telecom service centres for verification. This process ensured that the SIM card user was indeed the owner of the presented ID.

•The 2023 Regulation of Interception of Communications Regulations (Regulation 18) included a transitional provision for the regularization of all existing SIM cards with updated details by the new Regulations.

•The National ID provides a reliable and verifiable method to ensure that every SIM card user can be uniquely identified, thereby enhancing security and accountability.

•An individual who has lost their National ID should visit NIRA for a confirmation letter containing their registration details and NIN (National Identification Number). They should then take this to their telecom service provider for SIM card registration or replacement.

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