SIM boxers get six (6) years
SIM boxing will land you in jail! Four men learnt this the hard way after they were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 20 months to six years last week.
On Wednesday, Buganda Road Court Magistrate Stella Maris Amabilis convicted Ibrahim Kagulire, 20, Denis Musaazi, 21, and Maxie Bingi, 34, on their own plea of guilty.
The accused persons were charged with: (1) Operating a telecommunications apparatus without a licence, contrary to section 22 of the Uganda Communications Act; (2) Two counts of – electronic fraud contrary to section 19 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011, and (3) Abetment of unauthorised use of computer services contrary to section 21(1) and 15(c) of the Computer Misuse Act.
Two of the accused were convicted on all the 4 (four) counts as charged, and were sentenced to serve four (4) years for each of the three counts (Count 1, 2, and 3), and two (2) years for count 4. The sentences for count 1,2, and 3 would be served concurrently. That means the two convicts (Kagulire and Musaazi) will each serve six (6) years in prison.
The third accused (Bingi Maxie) was convicted on one count (Count 3-Electronic fraud) and was sentenced to serve 4 (four) years in prison.
Earlier on Monday, another convict Edward Mutyaba was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment.
The four convicts are part of the group of six suspects who were charged in court on January 23, 2020. The quartet pleaded guilty while two others Ezra Lubega and Ben Kavuma denied the charges.
They are accused of using a GSMA machine to divert international calls and pass them off as local, thus depriving the telecom operator the due amount expected from an international call, and the Uganda Government tax revenue.
Tumwebaze bids farewell
For UCC, the new year started with a new political team at ministerial level. On January 15, 2020, the board, management and staff hosted the former Minister of ICT and National Guidance Frank Tumwebaze at a cocktail in appreciation of his contribution to the sector.
Hon. Tumwebaze, who has been the minister responsible for the communications sector since 2016, was in December 2019 re-assigned to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in a cabinet reshuffle.
At the farewell cocktail held at Mestil Hotel in Kampala, the UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi expressed satisfaction with Tumwebaze’s tenure as minister and wished him well in his new assignment.
“We appreciate the energy and passion you brought to our sector. That energy percolated through us the policy implementers and regulators and ended up lifting the entire sector. Also, knowing that you had our back made our otherwise difficult job a little lighter,” Mr Mutabazi said.
The UCC ED also spoke of the minister’s pivotal role in the making of the National Broadband Policy, the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019 and communications sector Regulations, among other policy and regulatory instruments.
On his part, Hon. Tumwebaze said he had enjoyed working with the Commission’s board, management and staff, and looked forward to continuing the campaign for digitisation in his new assignment.
SMEs get digital skills
Meanwhile, the new brooms at the ministry hit the ground running. As the Minister of ICT and National Guidance Judith Nabakooba toured media houses on a familiarisation tour, the Minister of State Peter Ogwang was in Soroti launching the 9th Digital Literacy Training for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
The training, which took place at Light SS, is a project of Uganda Communications Commission through the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF).
As such, the Commission was represented by the Director Corporate Affairs Fred Otunnu, who stood in for the Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi. Also present were officials from the Federation of Small and Medium Enterprises (FSMEs).
“Government recognises the important and enormous contribution of the SME sector in Uganda’s economy. It is the reason I am today launching this Digital Literacy training in Soroti,” Hon Ogwang told his audience.
The minister later tweeted: “Digitalization of SMEs will provide business efficiencies and new opportunities for global economy participation. We shall continue to invest in enhancing ICT infrastructure.”
RCDF supports SMEs to leverage ICTs for improved performance and profitability. SMEs account for more than 90% of the entire private sector and contribute 20% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) yet suffer a digital skills gap. A study conducted by FSMEs found that two thirds couldn’t use a computer, and three quarters had no functional web sites.
Mobile telephony on the rise
One aspect of technology that SMEs don’t need to be nudged to embrace is mobile money. The recently released communications sector performance report shows that mobile money subscriptions (registered) grew by a remarkable two million between December 2018 and September 2019. During the same period, mobile money subscribers that are active over the previous 90 days grew by 1 million.
Compiled by UCC, the Telecommunications, Broadcasting and Postal Markets Industry Report reviews industry performance, trends and key developments in the communications sector. The report, which is released every quarter, relies on information and figures obtained from licensees’ submissions to the Commission and other sources.
The latest report covers the period from July – September 2019 but also includes information dating back to the fourth quarter of 2018 for comparison purposes.
Other key indicators over the same period (December 2018-September 19) are:
- Teledensity –63.0% to 63.9%
- Mobile subscriptions –24.4 million to 25.6million
- Internet subscription (mobile) – 14.3 million to 15.2 million
- Internet penetration –36.8% to 37.9%
- Estimated Internet users –21.6 million to 23.0 million
- Active Pay-TV service providers –1.1 million to 1.4million
- Mobile money subscriptions (registered) – 24.4 million to 26.4 million
- Mobile money subscriptions (active 90 days) – 14.6 million to 15.6 million
Telecom quality of service analysed
Mobile money would not be such a big hit without reliable telecommunications networks. In keeping with its mandate to promote and safeguard the interests of consumers regarding communication services, UCC sets standards for operators on, among others, the quality of communications services. To verify compliance, UCC conducts periodic independent audits.
In the period September to November 2019, UCC conducted benchmark measurements of mobile voice telephony and data services in Uganda to assess the Quality of Service (QoS) received by users/consumers of these services. The operators whose services were considered under this exercise were Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL), MTN Uganda Limited, Airtel Uganda Limited and Africell Uganda Limited.
The measurements were carried out from the end-user perspective in twenty (20) towns across the country namely; Mbarara, Kabale, Moroto, Kasese, Hoima, Mubende, Arua, Mbale, Tororo, Soroti, Lira, Kampala, Mukono, Jinja, Masaka, Mityana, Entebbe, Masindi, Fort Portal and Gulu. However, UTL network was not accessible in seven  of the towns considered.
According to the UCC standard for Quality of Service;
- 2% is the maximum proportion of call attempts on the network that should be blocked;
- 2% is the maximum proportion of successful call attempts on the network that should be dropped; and
- 98% is the minimum proportion of call attempts on the network that should be successful.
UCC attends social media fest
Realising the growing importance of social media, an online news publication came up with the idea of a social media fest and invited the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to be part of it. Spotlight Publications Ltd, publishers of Business Focus, were the brains behind Uganda’s first “social media fest” which took place at Silver Springs Hotel, Bugolobi, last Saturday.
The objective, the organisers said, was to help “streamline the social media industry towards effective and professional communication amongst users.”
UCC Head of Public and International Relations Ibrahim Bbossa represented the Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi at the event that also had the Independent Online Journalists’ Association- Uganda (Indoja-U) as a partner.
“It is one thing to spend a whole day on social media insulting people and gossiping; it is another to leverage these platforms to earn a living or make a positive difference in other people’s lives,” the UCC ED said in his speech read by Mr Bbossa.
Mr Mutabazi added that while UCC encourages and promotes freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and the media, it is also her responsibility to protect consumers from the potentially harmful aspects of social media and electronic media in general.
“It is important to be mindful that as we enjoy our rights and freedoms, we must not violate other people’s rights,” he said.
MTN launches 5G demo
The long-awaited 5G technology is finally here. MTN Uganda announced on January 18 that they had started 5G trials in Kampala in a bid to pioneer the network in East Africa.
The Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda who was the chief guest at the launch, said the government supports advances in technology provided they will help solve people’s everyday challenges and stimulate economic development.
Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC Executive Director, said that as a regulator of the communications sector, the Commission is working to ensure that there is an appropriate infrastructure to support 5G.
He noted that rolling out 5G would make Uganda the first country in East Africa to do so, and the third in Africa after South Africa and Nigeria.
Mr Wim Vanhelleputte, the MTN Uganda CEO, said 5G technology not only comes with increased speeds and capacity but also enables more convenient wireless connections.
“In the next 2-3 years, we will embark on the massive commercial roll-out of the technology,” he said.
Short film competition on
“This is Uganda” – the short film competition announced by Ugandan-American actor Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine at the end of last year is taking shape.
On a visit to Uganda in December 2019, Ntare interacted with local filmmakers at the National Theatre and at UCC and was impressed by the talent and passion on display.
What he saw prompted him to initiate the award “to help discover and nurture the next generation of Uganda filmmakers, and Ugandan female directors in particular.”
“This is Uganda – a Short Film Competition” has at stake a cash prize of $5,000 for Best Short Film and $5,000 for Best Female Director. Ntare has contributed $1,000 from his own savings and is crowdsourcing for the balance.
For those interested, films can be submitted by emailing a private link to firstname.lastname@example.org. The submission deadline is April 15, 2020. Films can be in any Ugandan language, as well as Swahili and English. For dialogue that is not in English, subtitles are to be provided. The entire length of the film, including end credits, should be no more than 5 minutes.
Ntare, who is starring in Tanzanian filmmaker Ekwa Msangi’s first feature “Farewell Amor” that premiered at Sundance recently, noted that it is an exciting time for the African film industry. He cited Mati Diop’s feature “Atlantics” which won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes in 2019 as one of the recent success stories.