Uganda’s Move To Generate Revenue From Social Media Tax Turns The Country’s Internet Use On Its Head

By  |  February 11, 2019

During the betwixt and between stages of 2018, the Ugandan government rolled out a Social Media (OTT) tax which mandated its citizens to commit a fee before they would be able to access a range of social media platforms for reasons best known the East African country’s leadership. While this move disgruntled many and created something of an uproar across Facebook and Twitter, it was looked upon as an infringement of rights by Uganda’s lawmakers.

But as it appears, the internet use tax has brought on other adverse effects that are telling on the communications landscape of the Republic. According to a recent report from the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the social media move by the government has reduced the number of internet users in the country, culminating in a 3 million drop over a period of three months.

The released data by the UCC also suggests that approximately just half of the internet subscribers in Uganda actually complied to the law paying the demanded fee. This, according to the commission, made the tax revenues expected to be realised a humongous alterity from what has actually been gathered. According to a UCC statement, from July to September 2018 under review, OTT taxpayers and the number for the revenue generated were in a declining trend.

“The figures indicate subscribers those who have used OTT services at least once in the quarter. 50.4% of the Internet subscribers were enjoying OTT services by the end of September 2018,” reads a statement.

Uganda-focused The Observer reported July last year that Ugandan internet users were running to use VPNs as soon as the social media tax began taking its heavy toll. Citizens, seeing the move as inhibition of their freedom of speech, resorted to this ultimate solution rather than paying the 200 Shillings demanded of them.

The government expects to collect between Shs 400 billion and Shs 1.5 trillion annually from the social media users, but the realisation of this target may be hard going by the efforts Ugandans are taking to avoid paying the tax, hence the decline in generated revenue and internet users.

As at The Observer’s press time, the search for ‘VPN’ on the world’s most popular search engine, Google, had skyrocketed and hit the maximum value (100) in the past few hours when the tax came into effect.

Presently, it has been discovered that Ugandans decided to cut their social media use altogether and assuming a no-internet lifestyle just to evade the fee. This alongside VPN use has resulted in a 5 million drop of total internet users in the East African country. No one knows for how long this will continue, but common predictions point to the possibility of further drops in millions in the coming months.

Featured Image: Daily Mail

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