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Proportionate Regulation in Uganda: A Gateway for Refugees Accessing Mobile Services in Their Own Name

The world’s refugee population is growing. Although mobile connectivity is not an antidote to the challenges refugees face, evidence shows that access to connectivity improves the lives of refugees in a variety of ways. Proof of identity is often required for individuals to activate mobile-enabled services in their own name, but many refugees do not have recognised identity documents and therefore struggle to meet Know Your Customer requirements that mobile operators (MNOs) are obligated to meet.

Recognising the regulatory barriers that refugees in Uganda were facing, the GSMA Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation programme and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) embarked on a joint advocacy effort to explore how access to mobile services could be improved for refugees. These efforts resulted in the Government of Uganda adopting a proportionate regulatory policy whereby the Uganda Communications Commission issued a more enabling directive to the mobile industry.

This case study explores how this policy change led to the activation of SIM-enabled services by MNOs and the impact this has had on the lives of refugees in Uganda.

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with over 350 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces the industry-leading MWC events held annually in Barcelona, Los Angeles and Shanghai, as well as the Mobile 360 Series of regional conferences.

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