Participation in a worthy cause is always good but making your participation count is even better. That is precisely what Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) did when her participation in the just ended Uganda International Trade Fair reaped the Best Regulatory Exhibitor Award 2019.

The communications regulator had pitched camp at Lugoogo to, primarily, raise awareness about its mandate and, more specifically, to sensitise the public on cybersecurity, frequency monitoring, consumer rights, complaints handling and verification of counterfeit gadgets. UCC also used the event to enlighten stakeholders on contemporary issues such as e-commerce and e-learning.

The Best Regulator Exhibitor Award goes to a Government institution that demonstrates substance and the relevance of its work and contribution to economic development. It is also determined by the branding of the exhibitor, presentation and customer service. Judging by these and other parameters instituted by the organisers of the annual trade expo, UCC emerged winner among all the other government bodies represented. It is the second time UCC is winning the same award, having won it in 2017.

The award was presented to UCC’s Head of Consumer Affairs Mr Joseph Kizito by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives Ms Amelia Kyambadde during an event presided over by President Museveni.

Investigation report released

Following an investigation into the alleged breach of minimum broadcasting standards by 13 broadcasters in April 2019, the Uganda Communications Commission released its report on 7th October 2019.

The investigation covered six TV stations; NTV, NBS, BBS, Bukedde TV, Salt TV and Kingdom TV; and seven radio stations; Radio Sapientia, Capital FM, CBS, Radio Simba, Radio Two Akaboozi, Beat FM and Pearl FM.

The report, which found a number of the concerned broadcasters culpable and recommended a range of actions, including asking them to show cause why UCC shouldn’t revoke their licenses, was prompted by complaints from security agencies and members of the public about the broadcasters’ conduct on 29th April 2019.

From the report’s findings, most of the broadcasters investigated were found to have been in breach of various laws, standards and license terms and conditions.

Most of the breaches related to a failure by the broadcasters to adhere to the minimum broadcasting standards and the standards for general broadcast programming in Uganda. Investigators also found widespread non-compliance with the Press and Journalists Act.

Copies of the report were handed to the concerned broadcasters during a meeting at the UCC offices in Bugolobi on Monday, 7th October.

Africans meet on Telecommunications Standards

On 8th October 2019, the 2nd Africa regional preparatory meeting for the forthcoming World Telecommunications Standards Assembly (WTSA-20) opened at the Imperial Golf View Hotel in Entebbe.

WTSA is one of the structures of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a specialised United Nations agency responsible for Information and Communication Technology related matters.

The week-long meeting brought together African stakeholders in the telecommunications industry to brainstorm on matters of interest ahead of the WTSA 2020 in Hyderabad, India, November 2020.

Telecommunications standards are necessary to facilitate global communications by ensuring that whether we exchange voice, video or data messages, different countries’ ICT networks and devices are speaking the same language.

Addressing the delegates from a wide range of African countries, including Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Algeria and Morocco, during the opening ceremony, Mr. Vincent Bagiire, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and National Guidance, said the WTSA-20 regional preparatory meeting was critical for Uganda which seeks to harness ICTs to improve the lives of her people.

Mr Bagiire, who represented the minister, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, urged African states to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (communication and connectivity) so as not to be left behind by the rest of the world.

On his part, the UCC Executive Director Mr Godfrey Mutabazi advised that to achieve the respective standardisation goals of African countries, joint efforts are paramount as not only do they face similar challenges, the source of these challenges is often external.

Issues being discussed include Over the Top (OTT) services (e.g. Facebook and Twitter), international Internet connectivity, mobile finance, counterfeit devices, spam, cybersecurity and Internet of Things (IoT).

UCC celebrates World Post Day

It was a double celebration on 9th October as Uganda marked its 57th independence anniversary while the Universal Postal Union (UPU), an organ of the United Nations, turned 145 years.

This year’s World Post Day theme, ‘Delivering Development is Delivering Progress’, speaks to the Post’s resilience and dynamism in the face of changing technology, as well as its impact on socio-economic development.

One of UCC’s core functions is to regulate and facilitate the growth and development of the postal and courier sector in the country.

Postal services in Uganda are provided by the Uganda Post Ltd (UPL), the Designated Operator (DO), which is wholly owned by the Government of Uganda. In addition, there are 23 licensed private courier operators.

Contrary to the perception that postal services are in a moribund state as a result of email, Messenger, Skype, Whatsapp and other technological advances, Post Office has continued to innovate and remains not only relevant but more efficient in its operations.

In Uganda, the postal industry has grown from a single postal operator to 23 post and courier operators, linking Ugandans to the global postal network.

Postal services remain a crucial play in the economy because as people increasingly purchase things online, postal services can be relied on to deliver the goods to their homes or offices.

In performing its regulatory mandate, UCC seeks to promote healthy competition and encourages innovation, leading to a diversity of quality products and services by the licensed operators. Through the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF), UCC has also supported the renovation and automation of selected post offices to support the operator in integrating technology in its operations. At the post offices that have so far been revamped, in Kitgum, Kasese, Mubende and Moroto, members of the public are able to access e-government services.

SIM card registration halted

Following a report, “Scam rocks SIM card Registration” in Daily Monitor on 7th October, highlighting concerns that some people are able to get SIM cards using forged documents, the UCC moved to prevent further damage.

The refugee registration system was identified as the loophole used by fraudsters, and so UCC suspended all SIM card registration with the use of refugee cards and attestation letters from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) immediately, until a more stringent procedure has been established.

“The Commission is in the process of formulating stringent procedures with the OPM on the validation of the Refugee Cards and Attestation Letters to mitigate further SIM registration fraud,” UCC said in a statement.

“Until formally communicated by the Commission, no further registration will be permitted with the documents mentioned above. Any Telecom Operator identified to carry out registration from the date of this notice may be penalised accordingly.”

According to the story, with Shs 50,000, one can easily obtain a functional SIM card using forged documents. Following measures adopted since 2018 to fight crime and other forms of phone abuse, telecommunication companies are obliged to ensure that registered phone numbers match with the subscriber’s National Identification Number (NIN).

Fraudsters took advantage of the fact that unlike Ugandan nationals who must present their national ID and foreigners who must show their passports before getting a SIM card, refugees are required to present their refugee cards or any other document from OPM to get a SIM card. As a result, people who are not bona fide refugees are acquiring SIM cards from unscrupulous SIM card registration agents using forged refugee cards.

New UICT Governing Council inaugurated  

The Commission and the Uganda Institute of Information and Communication Technology (UICT) have a special relationship, so it was not a surprise that the latter chose to hold their 5th Governing Council inauguration in the UCC conference hall on 27th September 2019.

UCC is mandated under the Uganda Communications Act 2013 to operate and manage UICT. In fact, UCC Corporate Affairs Director Mr Fred Otunnu is a member of the new Governing Council.

As stated on its web site www.uict.ac.ug, UICT is the only government institution specialising in skills-based middle-level ICT training. It offers practical oriented ICT training at certificate and diploma levels as an alternative to the more theoretical degrees offered by most universities and tertiary institutions in the same professional area.

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