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BIT BY BIT

Ugandans are furious with a new tax for using social media and mobile money

A town official accompanying visiting journalists sends a text message on his phone in the slum of Kachuf in the Masaka district of southern Uganda March 24, 2009. The word 'Kachuf' in Luganda means 'dirt'.
Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Uganda's internet tax
  • Yinka Adegoke
By Yinka Adegoke

Africa editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Uganda’s government has kept its promise: Many Ugandans woke up today (July 1) to find that if they hadn’t paid the new tax on social-media use, services like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and Skype were inaccessible.

Uganda’s government has long had an issue with social media as it tries to keep tabs on its young population. Back in February 2016, the country’s telecoms regulator blocked the internet during elections, ostensibly for security purposes. This year, the regulator proposed a tax on social-media use, designed to curb gossip online and raise billions of shillings in government revenue. That levy came after president Yoweri Museveni complained that idle talk on social media was costing the country much-needed time and income.

Many tech-savvy Ugandans have already taken to virtual private networks to get around having to pay an extra 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05) per day. The new fee is expected to impact usage of social media and mobile money, which now has an additional 1% tax.

Major telecoms providers MTN, Airtel, and Africell, issued a joint statement informing customers of how to pay the new tax with mobile money services of MTN and Airtel.

Internet penetration stands at just 22% in Uganda, according to the World Bank. Social networks constitute the internet for those already online, with Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter being the most popular apps.

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