As the infamous social media tax starts to bite, wise Ugandans have already devised means of how to survive in this ‘harsh condition’.
The social media tax which came into effect at midnight, July 1, 2018, impacts on social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Instagram, Viber, and Skype among others.
Starting from last night, every Uganda who wish to visit any social media platform must pay a sum of Shs200 daily, Shs1400 weekly or Shs6,000 monthly as excise duty.
However, according to a random survey on social media done by Daily Monitor, several Ugandans who have not been able to pay the daily Shs200 have found VPN as the ultimate solution to bypass paying the daily excise duty charge on Over-The-Top (OTT) services.
Daily Monitor on Saturday conducted an opinion poll on its Twitter handle engaging our audience on how prepared they were to pay the social media tax.
According to the poll results, 19 percent of the 581 followers who participated said they would spend less time on social media, 11 percent said they would stop using social media while 70 percent said they would resort to using Virtual Private Network (VPN).
On Sunday morning when the tax had just come into effect, there was some sort of silence on social media since a few Ugandans had either paid the tax or connected to VPN.
However, by midday, social media users in Uganda had started ‘making noise’ with most of them boasting how they had beaten the system by installing VPN.
A number of Whatsapp groups were flooded with links of what was thought to be better and reliable VPN apps, for people to download and access social media again free of tax.
VPN is a technology that extends a private network across a public network, and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across a VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.
VPN was first popularized by former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi in 2016 when he was campaigning as a presidential candidate ahead of Uganda’s 2016 elections.
At the time, President Museveni who was also campaigning for a fifth elective term had shut down social media claiming that the ban was a "security measure to avert lies ... intended to incite violence and illegal declaration of election results."
Mr Mbabazi then referred his followers to the Tunnelbear VPN in order to circumvent censorship and to access the internet anonymously.
“Good morning. I hope voting is going well at your polling station? To access Twitter, Whatsapp and Facebook use Tunnelbear VPN,” Mr Mbabazi a then presidential candidate tweeted on February 18, 2016 at bout 11:41am using his handle @AmamaMbabazi.