While Ugandans are storming social media most especially micro-blogging website; Twitter about the newly introduced social media tax of UGX200, they should know that one of the reason this was proposed by the H.E the President of Uganda; Yoweri K. Museveni was to reduce gossip. He stated that gossip on social media platforms was costing the country ‘much-needed time and income’.
Now to be honest with this, I think this one of the most ‘absurd’ reasons one could give – but it’s still one’s opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion. While social media giants, like Facebook, and Twitter are trying hard to fight fake news, our government is taxing the very platforms they don’t own to reduce gossiping. Gossiping and fake news are totally two different things. If the President was to say the levied tax was one way they want to try and fight fake news, then I “think” we could understand a little bit.
Meanwhile, it is worth knowing that users can still access social media using/via Wi-Fi internet connections, as well as the well-known Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Without going much in detail about VPNs, they (VPNs) helps people connect to a network securely allowing their connections to be encrypted, becoming anonymous online, and keeping their data private and safe from hackers, and government censorship. In addition also helps you to get access to blocked content.
With the government’s knowledge on this, the regulatory body of the communications sector; Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) came out and directed all telcos to block VPNs services so that users can pay the tax despite their public outcry. But still most are able to access these platforms via VPNs.
According to Business Daily Africa, the government expects to raise between UGX400 billion (roughly USD$104 million) and UGX1.4 trillion (roughly USD$364 million) from social media users annually.
Anyways, in my opinion, gossiping on social media can’t be reduced. Say, even with social media tax, users can still access social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Skype, LinkedIn on their PC either at work or school or home, and still gossip.
The president saying introducing social media tax was to reduce on gossip was wildly unreasonable.
PC Tech Magazine reached out to a few people, on this issue of taxing social media to reduce on gossip, and below was their opinion.
Michael Niyitegeka – Country Manager; ICDL Africa in Uganda (Twitter: @niyimic)
“The President is entitled to his opinion and we could say to an extent he is correct. But he could also be missing the big picture of what capability social media has on promoting the economy in different sectors. How I wish those that brief the President had the breadth of knowledge on what social media is capable of doing. The amount of knowledge that resides on these OTT platforms in incredible. These have become gateway’s to countries based on content generated.”
Joan Nvanungi – Next Einstein Forum Ambassador to Uganda (Twitter: @Nvannungi_)
“People gossiped before social media. They’ll always find other outlets to.”
Arthur Musinguzi – Social Media Influencer (Twitter: @arthurtotally)
“Where as the President said it that way. Hon David Bahati has come out to tell us the social media tax is meant to increase the tax base for service delivery. People have paid the tax and are still talking whether it’s ‘lugambo’ (gossip) or business.”
Muhereza Kyamutetera, Executive Chairman at Kyamutetera Holdings (Twitter: @StKyamutetera)
“You might not know, but when we are not gossiping we are transacting business on social media. Today, with Skype, I can conduct a meeting with 3 of my partners, one in India, another in the UK and another in the United States – all from my office – all at a cost of less than UGX2,000. There is so much e-commerce that we can be able to do and are doing on the various ‘lugambo (gossiping)’ platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram etc. As a key promoter of export-led markets, I am shocked that you think social media is for lugambo (gossiping). Matter of fact, social media is replacing conventional websites as a communication tool.”
Editor’s Note: Still following up on people’s opinion. This article will be updated more often.