The Minister for ICT and National Guidance, Frank Tumwebaze has revealed that the recently proposal to levy taxes on social media platforms by President Yoweri Museveni will go a long way in boosting use of local content.
A week ago, President Museveni hinted on a plan to impose taxes on the use of social Applications like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Viber and Skype. This was contained in a March 12 letter to Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija in which the President proposed that users of such platforms be charged a fee of Shs 100 per day.
The President’s suggestion has since sparked a debate within the public, many calling the idea of taxing social platforms outrageous and retrogressive.
But rather than bash the proposal, Minister Tumwebaze says Ugandans should view this as a policy that seeks to promote locally developed innovations over foreign products that are “forced on us”.
He alluded to China which blocked WhatsApp in favour of their local messaging platform, Wechat.
Furthermore, the Minister who was speaking to the press on the sidelines of the 19th Ordinary Session of the Africa Telecommunications Union Council of Administration at Hotel Africana on Wednesday, said the proposed social media taxes will also increase Uganda’s revenue collection.
“We want to tax those applications so that even our local technology innovators can have a chance to produce their own apps,” Tumwebaze told the press.
He clarified that since government is unable to tax developers of Applications like Facebook and WhatsApp because of their geographical location, it will instead tax the users because such Apps milk a lot of money from Ugandans.
“The President was simply challenging us to come up with our own content and take it online,” he said.
The proposal awaits the approval of Parliament until it is enacted into law most likely in the coming financial year of 2018/19.
Over 15 million Ugandans use the internet today, according to statistics by Uganda Communications Communication. The bulk of these people primarily use the internet to interact with others through social platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.
Uganda’s internet penetration is said to be at 31.3%, far behind Kenya which is now at 77%. Some experts have argued that imposing extra taxes on top of the already costly price of internet could further hamper access to the internet and widen the gap in penetration.