Information and Communications Technology minister, Frank Tumwebaze has said that airtime scratch cards that will be not loaded by midnight July 31 will be converted into mobile money.
This is being done to ensure mobile airtime customers do not lose their money that was locked in scratch cards.
“The mobile network operators have gradually phased out the scratch cards and the majority of users are already using electronic top up,” Mr Tumwebaze said in Parliament on Tuesday, July 31.
“They are also working out mechanisms to redeem any scratch cards that will still be in the hands of consumers by July 31, 2018.
“Mobile operators have already put in place systems to facilitate conversion of any unutilised scratch cards into mobile money. Through this system, no customer will lose money; they will be refunded for any unutilised airtime cards.”
The Busiki County Member of Parliament Paul Akamba had on July 24 asked the ministry to address concerns by mobile telecommunications companies’ customers about the ban of the scratch cards.
Mr Tumwebaze explained that the ban is meant to improve security, since it (the ban) came on the back of the murders early this year of many young women.
It was those murders that prompted the Cabinet agree to the registration of SIM cardholders particulars.
The registration was also meant to ease the traceability of mobile phone users.
“UCC and security agencies recommended to government that vending of airtime cards was directly linked to the selling of illegally registered SIM cards and would facilitate airtime recharge and top ups manually without any digital tracing,” he said.
“The use of electronic recharge systems was, therefore, recommended as the most viable and secure option with so many other attendant advantages.”
Some of the ‘advantages’ he reeled off are it would improve the tracing of vendors, tracing hawkers, stock takers and the customers.
Mr Tumwebaze claimed electronic airtime would create more job opportunities through formalised distribution.
It would also improve revenue collection since the Uganda Revenue Authority would ably determine how much airtime the telecommunications companies would have sold.
“The [electronic recharge] system would reduce e-waste caused by the many scratch cards that are thrown into the environment,” Mr Tumwebaze added.
“The system would protect the public against the purchase of fake airtime scratch cards intended to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.”
The other advantages are that they scratch cards increase the cost of communication since they involve production and distribution from one point to another.
Tororo South MP Frederick Angura suggested that the government should postpone the deadline for phasing out the cards so that users adjust.