Uganda’s government decided to punish internet users for using social media and making online bank transfers. Daily tax for using such services is 200 Ugandan shillings (4p), not so much but millions of Ugandans preferred to abandon the social media, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
Since July when the punishing taxes were imposed on social media use and money transactions using mobile phones, the number of internet subscriptions fell by more than 2.5 million, the Uganda Communications Commission reported.
A daily tax was tagged an “idle talk” affects more than 60 online platforms. To use sites like including Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, people are expected to pay a tax of a day. While David Bahati, Uganda’s finance minister, said the new levy aimed to raise revenue for public services, the president, Yoweri Museveni, sees the tax as a way to deal with the consequences of online “gossip”.
Tax on social media under fire in Uganda
Critics have described the tax as an attempt to restrict free speech and warned of the damaging impact on the economy because of a lack of formal banking services in Uganda. For local people, online payment via mobile phones is the only way to make a business.
“The tax has not generated the revenue the government anticipated,” said Irene Ikomu, a lawyer based in the capital, Kampala. Technology and financial sectors have instead been hit, said Ikomu.
The value of mobile money transactions also fell by almost a quarter, to 14.8tn Ugandan shillings (£3.4bn) between June and September, the first three months after tax were imposed.
Human rights experts say that while the statistics on internet use are concerning, the true impact of the tax on civic engagement and freedom of speech remains to be seen.