Government paid 800M to telecom operators to close down social media-report

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On Election Day, 8th February 2016, Ugandans woke up to no social media and mobile money services.

The Uganda Communications Commission later came out saying it directed the telecom companies to shut down the mobile money platform and key social media such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. The UCC said it undertook these measures to avert any attempts of flaring up violence.

The Uganda Revenue Authority is said to have lost at least Ugx. 8 billion each day that the mobile money system was off.

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Mobile operators are among the largest taxpayers in the country. By shutting down mobile money services for three consecutive days, the government deprived its own revenue agency of much needed tax revenue.

According to Bank of Uganda reports, more than Ugx. 1.3 million Transactions take place on the mobile money platform in a day.

However, the operators did not make too much noise for losing millions for the three days. A report published by Freiedrich Ebert Stiftung titled The African Media Barometer Uganda 2016, has the answer.

The report says the State paid each operator Ugx. 400 million shillings to shut down social media and mobile money platforms. The report does not say whether the 400m was for the three days the network was off or the 400m was daily payment which translates to 1.2 billion.

Legal Brains Trust, a nongovernment organization threatened to take the government to court over this decision, saying the move was made out of “irrational purposes”. And that “property, livelihood and consumer rights connected with mobile money transactions” were disproportionately interfered with by the State. Not much has been revealed since then.

For the three days that the service was unavailable, nearly 20 million mobile money users were unable to access the service.

There are seven telecom operators in Uganda. The report does not, mention the telecom companies that were allegedly paid the money.

Well, now that government reportedly paid money to the telecoms, may be the telecom operators need to compensate their subscribers for the lost bundles and time.

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