Uganda has just introduced a significant tax on social media usage. It is set at 200 shillings a day which adds up to about 3% of the average annual income if used daily.
Use of a long list of websites including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Tinder
triggers the daily taxed through billing by ISPs.
And as you may expect Uganda internet users are turning to VPNs so that ISPs can't detect access to taxed apps and websites.
In response, the government says it has ordered local ISPs to
begin blocking VPNs. In a statement, Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi said that Internet service providers would be ordered to block VPNs to prevent citizens from avoiding the social media tax.
Dispatch that ISPs are already taking action to prevent VPNs from being accessible but since there are so many, it won't be possible to block them all. In the meantime, the government is trying to portray VPNs as more expensive to use than the tax. In a
post on Facebook this morning, Mutabazi promoted the tax as the sensible economic option.
it appears that many Ugandans are outraged at the prospect of yet another tax and see VPN use as a protest, despite any additional cost. Opposition figures
have already called for a boycott with support coming in from all corners of society. The government appears unmoved, however. Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of Information Technology and Communications said:
If we tax
essentials like water, why not social media?
Update: And the people were not impressed
13th July 2018. See article
Uganda is reviewing its decision to impose taxes on the use of social media and on money transactions by mobile phone, following a public backlash.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda made the announcement soon after police
broke up a protest against the taxes.
President Yoweri Museveni had pushed for the taxes to boost government revenue and to restrict criticism via WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
The social media tax is 6000 Uganda shillings a month
(£1.25), but it is represents about 3% of the average wage. Activists argue that while the amount may seem little, it represents a significant slice of what poorer people are paying for getting online. There is also a 1% levy on the total value of mobile
phone money transactions, affecting poorer Ugandans who rarely use banking services.
In a statement to parliament, Rugunda said:
Government is now reviewing the taxes taking into consideration the concerns of
the public and its implications on the budget.
A revised budget is due to be tabled in parliament on 19 July.
Update: And the government continues to repress the people
21st July 2018. See
article from qz.com
Uganda's government has 'reviewed' its new social media tax and has decided to stick with it.
Matia Kasaija, the finance minister, decided against rescinding the social media tax. His reasoning echoed Museveni's initial reason for floating the tax: stopping gossip.