Mr. Godfrey Mutabazi of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), has decided to ban the use of scratch, and with this monster directive coming into force, we will see the end of the mobile telephone, just as it came
In my village in Gomba, I witnessed a situation that is slowly unfolding, but my Government is, either too utopian to notice it, or Mutabazi has become too detached from Ugandans to get bothered by small timers.
When I run out of airtime, I decided as usual, to go to the nearest shop to buy it. I wanted airtime of UGX 2, 000 which is usually tagged to my cell phone account, but this shopkeeper never stocks it because it is too expensive for his usual village customers. He told me that he does not have airtime of 2K because the wholesale place where he buys it from no longer brings it.
I then decided to ask for airtime of UGX 500 which I know he usually has in plenty because it is what his village customers can afford, but I was surprised when he replied he did not have it, either. He told me that he no longer brings any type of airtime because it had become scarce.
He advised me that unless I go to a Mobile Money agent for “Easy Load” because nobody in the entire village or even in the neighbourin g villages had airtime cards. He told me that unless I went to Bulo a small town nearly five kilometers away, I would not get airtime. To go to Bulo meant that I had to have 3K for bodaboda transport.
Up until now it had not dawned on me of how the Mobile telephone is soon going to become a luxury; only for those privileged few, like it had been many years ago when Celtel (now Airtel) was the only operator in the country; and the Celtel I am talking about used to be in dollars not shillings. It reminded me that, very soon the Mobile phones owned by villagers will become just historical relics, which will just be there to remind the villagers that they once used to communicate with Kampalans, just by the snap of a button.
What is going to surely happen is that the simple villagers only know how to use the scratch cards. They do not have Mobile Money in their cell phones to load airtime. They only have the luxury of Mobile Money if somebody from Kampala sends it to them. For this particular shopkeeper, whom I went to, the system of Easy Load is too complicated for him and his simple village customers to grasp.
In fact, even here in Kampala, most people in the surburbs do not know how to use the Easy Load method, preferring to leave it to the Mobile Money agents to do it for them. Also, most people do not have Mobile Money in their cell phones most of the time and even those who have it do not know how to use their phones to load airtime preferring to ask friends to do it for them.
I am asking: would it not have been better for UCC to educate Ugandans on how to use the Mobile Money, Easy Load and all those other things before phasing out the scratch card! That is what this simple village shopkeeper is advising. I see the man’s reasoning has more sense than Mutabazi’s directive of phasing out scratch cards by 31st July!
Mariam Najjuma, Kampala