Ugandans started paying the social media tax effective from 1st July this year and this was not met with open arms by the public. Ugandans are required to pay UGX 200 daily (Kshs 5) or UGX 1400 weekly (Kshs 37) or UGX 6000 monthly (Kshs 157) to use what they term as ‘Over The Top’ (OTT) services which includes but not limited to social networking sites.
A way to avoid the charges was by using VPNs and now the government is tackling that loophole. According to the Monitor, the Ugandan government has moved to block VPNs that Ugandans have installed to prevent the dodging of the new tax.
“We have technology that will block the VPN services so that no one dodges the taxes,” Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi said. “Different VPN services continue to come with more advanced features to circumvent government crackdowns but governments around the world have continued to block them,” he said.
The UCC director said that in those situations where people have circumvented the system, they will be subjected with the same taxes with possible surcharges to access the OTT services.
Uganda has over 13 million Internet users and thanks to the new taxes, it is estimated that the government would rake in around UGX 400 billion to UGX 1.4 trillion (Kshs 10.5 billion to Kshs 36.7 billion) yearly.
This move has the potential to limit Internet access to the populations that cannot afford the new tax in addition to other charges like buying Internet bundles. In a country where only 31% of its population are Internet users, this would be a rough time for Ugandans.