If you thought Uganda’s social media tax was the last you have heard of governments going after over the top services then you are wrong. Zambia’s government has alerted its citizens that it plans to introduce daily tax charges for the use of internet call services such as WhatsApp calls and Skype in a bid to protect telcos from lost revenue.
“Cabinet has noted that there is an increase in the use of internet phone calls at the expense of traditional phone calls and this threatens the telecommunications industry and jobs in companies such as Zamtel, Bharti Airtel and MTN Zambia,” said Information Minister Dora Siliya.
She said that the cabinet has approved an executive order that would see the introduction of a 30 ngwee ($0.03) daily tariff charged on internet calls. “Jobs such as call centre workers, talk time sellers, conventional call technicians will reduce drastically if more Zambians migrate to internet calls and create jobs in America and elsewhere,’ she added.
According to Zambia’s government, 80% of the country’s 8 million mobile subscribers are using WhatsApp, Viber and Skype to make calls, thus they see the need to tax this growing trend.
This directive did not sit well with Zambians who quickly pointed out that the already purchase data bundles from the telcos in order to access over the top services such as WhatsApp. “We are concerned about the proposed tariff of 30 Ngwe per day because it is a major threat to freedom of expression, access to information, media rights, freedom of assembly online an affront to the enjoyment of digital rights,” read a statement issued by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Zambia.
Some Zambians took their grievances to Twitter, claiming that Zambia is no longer a country but a business venture.
Tax on WhatsApp calls? Zambia is not a country. It’s a business.
— Absolut Vanilla (@tandiiwe) August 13, 2018
The proposed daily tax will be collected through telcos and ISPs through airtime deductions, similar to how Uganda collects their social media tax. In addition to the internet calls tariff, Zambia is also working on a cyber crimes bill in an effort to regulate social media use in the country.