What you need to know:
- The report calculates the total economic impact of every major deliberate internet outage and social media shutdown around the world in 2021.
Uganda lost $109.7m (Shs 390b) as a total cost to the economy due to internet restrictions in the concluded national general elections last year. This financial loss has placed Uganda at a 5th position in global rankings.
A breakdown of this cost shows the country lost $3.8m (Shs 13b) per day. Internet black out and social media shutdown in Uganda lasted for a total duration of 692 hours- an equivalent of 28 days.
The financial loss was published by TOP10VPN, a tech firm that tracks internet disruptions across the globe in its report, ‘Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns’.
The report calculates the total economic impact of every major deliberate internet outage and social media shutdown around the world in 2021.
The report shows internet outage and social media shutdowns affected 10.6 million internet users after government imposed an internet blackout a day before polls opened for the presidential elections in January last year after blocking social media, including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, two days earlier.
This represented almost half of internet users in the country which currently stand at 21 million, according to the latest figures from the Uganda Communications Commission.
The 10 million internet users affected by internet shutdowns were mainly holders of smart gadgets with extensive mobile operating systems which facilitate web browsing over mobile broadband and multimedia functionality such as music, video and cameras.
Internet access was restored on January 18, however other social media platforms remained blocked until February 10, and Facebook remains blocked to date.
Twitter remained the most blocked social media platform, suffering 12,379 hours, an equivalent of a year and half of deliberate disruption across the globe – over 60 percent more than Facebook.
The report reveals that internet shutdown led to a surge in demand for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) by 1,343 percent, during the social media restrictions. Telecoms which were the hardest hit registered a Shs20b loss according to data from a UCC report published last year.
Key economic sectors such as banking, telecommunication and trade were mainly at loss due to disabled internet based transactions.
Across the Sub-Saharan Africa, close to $2 billion was lost in internet outages affecting 171 million across countries such as Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.
Restricted internet access to Ugandans has dealt a big blow to the economy during the pandemic, a time when it was needed most.
In the lead up to the reading of the 2021/22 budget last year, government cancelled a social media tax of Shs 200 levied for daily use of social platforms, and cast a wider net with a 12 percent tax on purchase of internet data further affecting most businesses transacting online.