UCC Orders Registration of Online Data Communication Platforms

4289 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
In a circular published on March 6, 2018, signed by Engineer Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director UCC, the commission classifies online data communication services as communication services for, which one requires authorisation from the commission.

Uganda Communications Communication-UCC has asked online data communication and broadcast service providers in the country to register by April. The Commission argues that communication to the public of any content, whether by way of audio, video, visual, sound, still or moving pictures or a combination is a communication service that is subject to the regulatory control of the Commission.

In a circular published on March 6, 2018, signed by Engineer Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director UCC, the commission classifies online data communication services as communication services for, which one requires "authorisation" from the commission.
"All online data communication service providers, including online publishers, online news platforms, on-line radio and television operators are therefore advised to apply and obtain authorisation from the Commission with immediate effect," reads the circular.
He explains that UCC is mandated under section 5 of the Uganda Communications Act of 2013 to regulate online and social media content plus internet usage. Section 5 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 mandates the Commission to monitor, inspect, license, supervise, control and regulate all communications services. 

"The Commission shall from 2nd April 2018 embark on enforcement activities against all non-compliant providers of online data communication services," reads the circular. He says the enforcement will entail directing Internet Service Providers (ISP) to block access to such websites and or streams. 
The statement defines content to include any sound, text, still picture, or other audio visual representation, tactile representation or any combination of the proceeding, which is capable of being created, manipulated, stored, retrieved or communicated electronically.
The move by UCC has drawn varied reactions from various quarters. John Baptist Imokola, the Chief News Editor of Nile Post, an online news portal and subsidiary of Next Media Services and media trainer, told URN that UCC is trying to bite more than it can chew. He there are more pressing issues that the Commission needs to tackle before getting entagled in the internet chaos.

"The challenge we have with Ugandan regulators is that instead of sensitizing people on better usage, they always think about regulating, register here, write this, etc without helping users understand the need of responsible internet use," Imokola said. He notes that quoting these items makes it look like all internet users are going to register. He also wondered whether UCC has the capacity to register all those involved in generating online content.
"It is suspicious to me, and I get a feeling that there are individuals, groups or communication that is being targeted. I think it is a tall order UCC is getting itself into and I wish them well," he added.

Eric Tinka via Twitter @erictinka1 stated; "Seriously? How shallow can UCC be? Ugandans have become too smart to be shaken by such decrees." Clare Muhindo, a Social Media specialist, at The Monitor Publications, says while she welcomes the regulation, she wonder how will regulate the online platforms.

"I have no problem with regulation of online platforms, because most are in a rush to break news, hence publish false information. However, wondering how UCC is going to handle this. Considering that the sites where most of the blogs, websites and video channels are not run by UCC. How will UCC be able to identify those channels or websites that are not registered? Does it have the capacity?" Muhindo said.

Derrick Senyonga, a multi-media trainer with Ultimate Media Consult, says internet is a global platform, which is hard to regulate. "Online communication or communication over the internet goes beyond online publications to social media. People communicate every day; this will be a difficult task for UCC," Senyonga said.  

Adding that; "UCC should know that counter-measures to regulation using obfuscation or encryption are possible and make it impossible for the ISP to see exactly what content has been transferred." Moris Atwine, an IT graduate and author at enStartup, an online technology startup ecosystem, says its impossible for UCC to completely lock out sites that do not want to register with them.

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About the author

Davidson Ndyabahika
Davidson Ndyabahika is a Journalism major from Makerere University and is passionate about investigative and data journalism with special interest in feature story telling.

He has gone through digital and multi-media training both at Ultimate Multimedia Consult, and has attended Data Journalism Sessions at ACME to enrich his capacity in data journalism.

Davidson has previously freelanced with The Campus Times, The Observer, Chimp reports and URN. He is currently reporting under Education. He is also passionate about reporting on environment, health, crime and political satire writing.

Follow him on Twitter: @dndyaba