, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 18 – Information Communication and Technology (ICT) leaders in the East African region have agreed to jointly explore mechanisms of lowering the telephone roaming charges.
The ICT ministers from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan say the high cost for international mobile voice messaging and data roaming in the region is hindering investment.
Kenya’s ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i says among the options include defining wholesale and retail price caps for roaming charges based on best practices.
“It doesn’t make sense if we want to support regional trade to have a situation where it costs you Sh3 to call to the USA, but you pay Sh30 to make a call to Rwanda and we are all determined to bring down the cost of calls in the region, “he said.
He said that the leaders are doing studies and will also engage all the regulators in the countries to come up with the most appropriate option that is reasonable for business and sensible for regulatory.
“We are in an era where we are talking about removing all barriers to regional trade and regional engagements and the cost of roaming calls in East Africa is a serious barrier to regional trade,” he said.
He also said the leaders are also in the process of harmonizing SIM registration in the region that will enable prompt sharing of subscribers’ data.
He said that there is need to capture details of persons subscribing to telecommunications services and in particular cellular mobile services owing to the numerous public security concerns.
“We are in the process of establishing a legal and regulatory framework for this process and it was agreed that a deadline for deactivation of all unregistered SIM cards be set and adhered to,” Matiang’i explained.
On his part Uganda’s ICT Minister John Nasasira emphasized the importance of leveraging on ICT to improve services delivery and enhance e-commerce in the region.
“We should also consider the harmonization of cross-border connectivity and broadband pricing in the region putting into consideration standards, taxes and prices that will encourage broadband uptake,” Nasasira said.
The ministers are discussing ways of fast tracking regional integration using ICT.
The ministers were instructed by the Integration Project Summit that took place on October 28, 2013 in Kigali, Rwanda.