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ICT law in Uganda

In Uganda, the use of ICT is regulated through various legislation, including:

  • The Uganda Communications Act, 2013 (Cap 106, the laws of Uganda)
  • The Computer Misuse Act, 2011
  • The Electronic Signatures Act, 2010
  • The Electronic Transactions Act, 2011
  • The Electronic Media Act, 1996
  • The National Information Technology Authority Act, 2009
  • Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, 2010

The Electronic Signatures Act, 2010

“[R]regulates the use of electronic signatures and ensures that transactions are carried out in a secure environment; enhances authenticity and security of documents by establishing a public key infrastructure; recognizes different signature creating technologies; and provides effective administrative structures for certification of authorities.”[1]

The Computer Misuse Act, 2011

[R]egulates cyber crime to promote safety and security of electronic transactions and information systems; prevents unlawful access, abuse and misuse of electronic devices like mobile phones including computers and secures the conduct of electronic transactions in a trustworthy electronic environment in addition to providing for other related matters. The cyber laws provide tough penalties for offenders where companies and individuals involved may be de-licensed and if charged in court risk serving up to three years in prison.[2]

The Uganda Communications Act, 2013

The Uganda Communications Act of 2013 is Uganda’s major law dealing with ICT. Among other things, it consolidates the 1996 Electronic Media Act and the 2000 Uganda Communications Act into one law; merges the former Broadcasting Council with the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC); regulates Uganda Post Ltd.; establishes the Uganda Communications Tribunal; defines standards for the provision of licencing for radio, telecommunications and other communications; and, creates a set of related offenses.

Below are terms uniquely defined for use in the Act.

“broadcaster” means a licensed person who packages and distributes or distributes television or radio programmed services for reception by subscribers or the public, regardless of the technology;

“broadcasting” means the transmission of sound, video or data, intended for simultaneous reception by the public;

“cinematograph theatre” means any building, structure, tent or other erection of whatever nature or any place or land in or on which a cinematograph or video exhibition is presented to the public either gratuitously or for reward;

“communications” means telecommunications, data communication, radio communications, postal communications and includes broadcasting;

“communications services” means services performed consisting of the dissemination or interchange of audio, visual or data content using postal, radio, or telecommunications media, data communication, and includes broadcasting;

“postal article” includes any letter, postcard, newspaper, book, document, pamphlet, pattern, sample packet, small packet, parcel package or other article tendered for dispatch or specified in the International Postal Union or in the licence of an operator;

“producer” includes a person who is at any given time, in charge of programme production and transmission to the public by means of any electronic apparatus;

“radio communication” means the transmitting or receiving over paths which are not provided by any material substance constructed or arranged for that purpose, of electromagnetic energy of a frequency not exceeding three million megahertz being energy which either— (a) serves for the conveyance of messages, sound or visual images, whether messages are actually received by any person or not, or for the actuation or control of machinery or apparatus; or (b) is used in connection with the determination of position, bearing or distance, or for the gaining of information as to the presence, absence, position or motion of any object or objects of any class;

“telecommunication” means the emission, transmission or reception through the agency of electricity or electromagnetism of any sounds, signals, signs, writing, images or intelligence of any nature by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic systems whether or not such signs, signals, writing, images, sounds or intelligence have been subjected to rearrangement, computation or other processes by any means in the course of their transmission, emission or reception;[3]

 

Licencing under the Uganda Communications Act: [4]

Radio and telecommunications:

21. Licence for radio communications

A person shall not, without a licence issued by the Commission— (a) establish or use any radio station or provide radio communication services; (b) sell, let, hire or otherwise dispose of any radio communications apparatus; (c) manufacture, possess, install, connect or operate any radio communications apparatus or interference-causing apparatus

22. Licence for telecommunications.

A person shall not, establish a telecommunications station, provide telecommunications services or construct, maintain or operate telecommunications apparatus without a licence issued by the Commission.

23. Exemption from requirement for licence. Notwithstanding sections 21 and 22, a licence is not required for communications apparatus— … (b) for use by the police, the armed forces or any other services directly used by the State in the performance of official functions, which comply with technical requirements specified by the Commission.

24. Licence to use frequency spectrum.

The Commission shall exclusively issue licences for— (a) radio broadcasting or communications apparatus and spectrum use; (b) possession and operation of radio broadcasting or communications apparatus; (c) broadcasting and communications as the Commission may consider appropriate. (…)

26. Installation of television and radio stations.

(1) A person shall not install or operate a television station, radio station or any related broadcasting apparatus without a licence issued by the Commission.

(2) The Commission shall, before issuing a licence under this section, take into account— (a) proof of existence of adequate technical facilities; (b) the location of the station and geographical area to which broadcast is to be made; (c) social, cultural and economic values; and (d) the environmental impact assessment. (…)

Broadcasting:

27. Broadcasting licence.

(1) A person shall not broadcast without a broadcasting license issued by the Commission. (…)

28. Right to broadcast.

(1) A person shall not, take any action which is not authorized under this Act or other law, on account of the content of a programme, to prevent the broadcasting of a programme.

(2) Subsection (1) does not absolve a person from complying with any law which prohibits— (a) the broadcasting of pornographic material and obscene publications; or (b) any broadcasting which infringes upon the privacy of any individual.

29. Duties of a licensee and producer.

The holder of a licence or a producer of a broadcasting station or disseminating apparatus shall— (a) ensure that what is broadcast is not contrary to public morality; (b) retain a record of all that is broadcast, for not less than sixty days.

30. Disqualification of a producer.

A person shall not be appointed a producer of a broadcasting station if that person— (a) is less than eighteen years of age; (b) is of unsound mind; (c) is not ordinarily resident in Uganda; (d) does not possess the requisite qualifications prescribed by the Media Council.

31. Minimum broadcasting standards.

A person shall not broadcast any programme unless the broadcast or programme complies with Schedule 4.[5]

32. Ethical broadcasting standards

(1) Subject to this Act, the ethical broadcasting standards which apply to broadcasters are the professional code of ethics specified in the First Schedule to the Press and Journalist Act.  (…)

Postal services:

33. Licensing of postal services.

(1) A person shall not convey, deliver or distribute postal articles without a licence issued under this Act

Subcontracting by a licensee.

(1) In the case of postal services, a licensee may use a subcontractor to perform the services subject to the licensee’s responsibility to comply with all obligations and conditions under the licence and this Act.

(2) The liability of a subcontractor of a licensee under subsection

(1) in the collection, transmission or delivery of any postal article or for loss or delay of or damage to the article or any other loss or damage in relation to the performance of postal services shall be the same as the liability of the licensee. (…)

35. Protection of postal articles.

(1) A person engaged in postal services shall protect any postal article and ensure that an employee of that person does not—

(a) open the article; (b) know or disclose the contents of a postal article; (c) deliver an article in the course of transmission to a person other than the addressee, without the consent of the addressee; (d) permit that article to be opened or delivered to a person other than the addressee, without the consent of the addressee, or permit anyone other than the addressee to know or to disclose the contents of a postal article. (…)

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to an article opened or disposed of under

(a) the law regulating customs; (b) any other law prohibiting or regulating the importation or exportation of an article; (c) any regulation permitting the opening of a postal article for the purposes of ascertaining details pertaining to the sender or addressee which are necessary in order to return or deliver the postal article. (…)

Video and cinema licences:

37. Licence for cinematograph theatre or video library.

(1) A person shall not operate a cinematograph theatre or a video or film library without a licence issued by the Commission. (…)

(3) The Commission shall, before issuing a licence under this section consider whether, at the place or premises of the applicant, there is adequate provision for the safety, health or convenience of the persons attending a video or cinematograph exhibition.

General provisions

38. Application for a licence.

{…) (2) Before granting a licence, the Commission shall, take into account the following—

(a) whether the applicant is an eligible person; (b) the capability of the applicant to operate a system or service for which a licence is sought; (c) the objectives of this Act; (d) whether the grant of the licence is in the public interest.

(3) A licence under this section shall—

(a) be issued upon payment  of the fees prescribed for the licence; (b) state the terms and conditions upon which it is granted; (c) specify the services to be provided by the operator; (d) where applicable, specify the network to be operated.

(4) The Commission shall grant the licence within sixty days from the date of application.

(5) Where the Commission refuses to grant the licence, it shall within fourteen days provide a written explanation to the applicant, giving reasons for the refusal.

39, Terms and conditions of a licence.

(1) The Commission shall prescribe the terms and conditions of all operators licensed under this Act. (…)

(3) An operator shall provide the service for which that operator has obtained a licence.

(4) For the purposes of this section, the conditions may include

(a) in the case of a licence to establish a radio communication station, the specifications as to the positions and nature of the station, the purpose for and circumstances in which and the persons by whom the station may be installed or used; (b) in the case of any other telecommunication licence, specifications as to the apparatus which may be installed or used, the places where, the purposes for, the circumstances in which and the persons by whom an apparatus may be used; and (c) in the case of a postal services licence, specifications as to the services to be performed, the place of postal services and the geographical spread of the services and places.

40. Modification of licence.

(1) The Commission may, upon reasonable grounds, modify the conditions of any licence if the Commission considers it necessary to achieve the objectives of this Act, or is in the public interest, taking into account the justified interests of operators and the principles of fair competition and equality of treatment.

(2) Before modifying any condition of a licence, the Commission shall give the operator notice of not less than sixty days, stating the reasons for the intended modification and giving the operator an opportunity to make any representation.

(3) The Commission shall give an operator reasonable time within which to comply with the modification of the licence.

(4) A person aggrieved by a decision of the Commission may appeal to the tribunal.

41. Suspension and revocation of licence.

(1) The Commission may suspend or revoke a licence issued under this Act, on the following grounds—

(a) serious and repeated breach of the licence conditions; (b) any fraud or intentional misrepresentation by the operator applying for the licence; (c) where the operator is engaged in or is supporting activities amounting to a treasonable offence under the Penal Code Act; or (d) where the operator has ceased to be an eligible person.

(2) After consideration of any representations by the operator, the Commission may—

(a) prescribe time during which the operator is required to remedy the offending act or conduct; (b) require the operator to pay a fine not exceeding the equivalent of ten percent of its gross annual revenue.

(3) The Commission shall give the operator written notice of not less than sixty days specifying the reasons for the intended suspension or revocation, during which the operator may make representations to the Commission.

(4) Where the Commission is of the opinion that the measures under subsection (3) are not sufficient, the Commission may—

(a) suspend the licence for a specified period; or (b) revoke the licence.

42. Transfer of licence.

(1) A licence issued by the Commission shall not be transferred without the written consent of the Commission.

(2) An operator may apply to the Commission in the prescribed manner for consent to transfer a licence.

(3) An application under subsection (2) shall be accompanied by an application for grant of a licence by the person to whom the operator intends to transfer the licence.

(4) The Commission shall in considering an application for the transfer of a licence have regard to the same terms and conditions as those that apply to the grant of a new licence, but the Commission may in its discretion refuse to grant the application under this section.

(5) For the purposes of this section—

(a) “transfer of licence” includes the acquisition of control of the licence holder

43. Lapse and renewal of a licence.

(1) An application for the renewal of a licence shall be made at least two months before the expiration of the licence.

(2) In considering an application for a renewal of a licence, the Commission shall have regard to the performance of the operator during the duration of the licence.

(3) The Commission shall renew a licence within thirty days from the date of application.

(4) Where a licence is not renewed under this section, the Commission shall within fourteen days, provide a written explanation, giving reasons for the refusal.

44. Annual report on operations of licensee.

Every licensee shall, at the end of each year of business, prepare and submit to the Commission in the prescribed form, a report on the operations and services of the licensee and the extent to which the conditions of the licence are followed.

Q: What other laws and policies regulate or affect ICT in Uganda?

Q: Critique the licencing provisions of the Uganda Communications Act, 2013

[1] (Mulalira n.d.)

[2] (Mulalira n.d.)

[3] Section 2 – Interpretation, Uganda Communications Act, 2013.

[4] Part IV- Licensing of Communications, Uganda Communications Act, 2013.

[5] A broadcaster or video operator shall ensure that— (a) any programme which is broadcast— (i) is not contrary to public morality; (ii) does not promote the culture of violence or ethnical prejudice among the public, especially the children and the youth; (iii) in the case of a news broadcast, is free from distortion of facts; (iv) is not likely to create public insecurity or violence; (v) is in compliance with the existing law; (b) programmes that are broadcast are balanced to ensure harmony in such programmes; (c) adult-oriented programmes are appropriately scheduled; (d) where a programme that is broadcast is in respect to a contender for a public office, that each contender is given equal opportunity on such a programme;  (e) where a broadcast relates to national security, the contents of the broadcast are verified before broadcasting. (Schedule 4, Uganda Communicatons Act, 2013).

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