Surprise: Uganda's New Social Media Tax Seems To Have Led To Fewer People Using The Internet, And Total Value Of Mobile Transactions To Drop

from the how-to-hobble-a-nascent-digital-economy-in-one-easy-move dept

Techdirt has been following the regrettable story of African governments imposing taxes and levies on Internet use. For example, Uganda has added a daily fee of 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05) that its citizens must pay to access social media sites and many common Internet-based messaging and voice applications (collectively known as "OTT services"). It has also imposed a tax on mobile money transactions. When people started turning to VPNs as a way to avoid these charges, the government tried to get ISPs to ban VPN use. As we pointed out, these kind of taxes could discourage the very people who could benefit the most from using the Internet. And in news that will surprise no one, so it has turned out, according to official data from the Uganda Communications Commission, summarized here by an article on the Quartz site:

In the three months following the introduction of the levy in July 2018, there was a noted decline in the number of internet users, total revenues collected, as well as mobile money transactions. In a series of tweets, the Uganda Communications Commission noted internet subscription declined by more than 2.5 million users, while the sum of taxpayers from over-the-top (OTT) media services decreased by more than 1.2 million users. The value of mobile money transactions also fell by 4.5 trillion Ugandan shillings ($1.2 million).

Given the timing, it seems likely that it was indeed the newly-introduced levy that caused the number of Internet users in Uganda to drop dramatically, and the mobile phone-based economy to contract. Neither is good for the people of Uganda, its economy or its government. It's clearly time for the Ugandan authorities to rescind the tax before too much long-term damage is caused -- and for other African nations with ill-advised Internet levies to do the same.

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Filed Under: internet, internet tax, social media, uganda

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  1. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Feb 2019 @ 3:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Fuck Hanlon's razor

    "Do not believe anything the supporters of these, the "not us", say, because everything they say is a blatant lie unless they admit exactly what they're doing."

    That's well beyond the tinfoil hat territory...

    Hanlon's razor applies for several reasons:

    1) We have allowed a body politic to emerge where the successful applicant in any endeavor will be an antropomorphic personification of the Dunning-Kruger effect with the spine of a soggy noodle, the moral fortitude of wet cardboard, and the principles of a bobbit worm.

    2) Said applicants and the bureaucracy surrounding them are unlikely to be held responsible for the shit which hits the fan a year after they're out of that role or office, so they don't need to care about most consequences.

    We could describe this as malicious but it certainly isn't over an agenda of control, but mainly because most of them will accept any amount of collateral damage as long as it means they can preen in the public eye while tossing out some catchy strong-man slogan rather than having to spend effort actually trying to understand the ramifications of the decisions they're making.

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