I am going to discuss the Social Media Ban was between 17th February to 21th February in the middle of the elections the Government pushed it through Uganda Communication Commission who gave instructions to MTN, Airtel and Uganda Telecom (UTL) to cut the mobile-data and also Mobile-Money; which is important component for many Ugandans as the banks are greedy and has steady fees on having cash on the accountants there.
UCC explain why people can’t get on Social Media on the 18th February:
“Uganda Communications Commission UCC has finally come out to explain the very poor internet access that hit the country from midnight to the start of polling day 7.00am February 18 – and later. They switched it off, they said” (…) “Many people found it difficult to access social media, especially Facebook, twitter and WhatsApp” (…)”Mutabazi said many parties breached this and took their campaigns onto social media, the Electoral Commission asked them to act. Godfrey Mutabazi is the current Executive Director of Uganda Communications Commission” (…)”Leading Ugandan telecom MTN on their part came out with statement. “The UCC has directed MTN to disable all Social Media and MobileMoney services due to a threat to Public Order and Safety” (Musoke, 2016).
The great explanation from PM Ruhakana Ruganda:
“Briefing the media on Saturday at the Prime Minister’s Office in Kampala, Rugunda cleared the air on the recent controversial shutdown of social media platforms and mobile money services by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC)” (…)”There had been reports that some elements had been planning to create violence and mayhem [ahead of the general elections]. So government decided to take some specific steps to ensure that the country is secure,” he said” (…)”he also said: “”Social media and mobile money services should be restored any time from now. Gov’t will be able to handle any distortions that may arise from the social media now that the main part of the elections is done” (Kizza, 2016).
The Surge of VPN:
The great news was the people found a solution and downloaded VPN, even UCC, NRM and other entities to spread the news did so; even the numbers might not be the total but at least 1,5 million people downloaded ways of rerouting the internet access through a VPN instead through the direct Airtime or Mobile-Company services. This was by some 15% of all usage of internet at a certain time used through VPN in Uganda. That is staggering numbers! To VPN services confirmed to a tech-site “TMSruge” that Lifehacks and TrustZoneApp confirmed over 525,000 at one time.
The most interesting is the report not confirmed yet but possible:
“They revealed to the President that data usage per day is $4,000,000 million while mobile money transactions generate $6,000,000 per day. Added together, telecom companies demanded that Uganda pays $10,000,000 per day their investment is not generating income. Power hungry as he is, the President instructed the Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija to sign a quick memorandum of understand with the telecom companies, committing Uganda to pay the above sums of money – $10 million per day of switching off”.
This here is not totally verified, by it gives an indication of how much money the government have used on the closing down the services of the mobile-companies; they are in Uganda to earn money and would stop having operations if they lost money by keeping their business. So it seems reasonable to get compensations for not being able to do business while having license to do it. As the Government want to have business and investors, therefore they have it in them… to pay them to hinder the public access to the services to shut-down the experience and information spreading through the social media and gotten funding through mobile-money.
As you can see the opening of the services after 5 days of shut-down would mean $ 10, 000, 000 million X Days, and its 5 days so the total bill on the Government to try to shut down the Social Media access $ 50, 000, 000 Million. That is a BIG amount of money and the way it happen while such great amount of public started using another ways of getting information and sending information says the diligence of the people to finds ways to do what they want, especially when it doesn’t contain any fear or danger.
Even if the UCC at some point during the Social Media ban they told all the users it was “Treason” and that they would fine and arrest the ones that did use the services; though it still was banned. The issue is that the UCC has to try and collect information on 1, 5 million people and citizens, it is not a court, they have the right to take out Transmitters and Jam broadcasts, and cut technical issues as the Social Media ban though not as effective as the government of Uganda wanted it; and by thinking the possible agreement between them as the Government did it, the Commission should struggle with it. The police struggle enough with the constant movement of RDCs and DPCs as IGP Kale Kayihura doesn’t trust anybody then his boss. I don’t know how they can jail the major part of people for defying their desperate move to ban something that all youth and grown people use to communicate with each other. That is a way you will not succeed in this day and age.
We might never see the agreement or the MoU, this here is still not facts, it is information spread on pages that are Anti-NRM and will be for the use of destroying the NRM-Regime and look bad. So there might be other numbers and such, but the thought that the Government had to pay the Mobile-Companies had to get compensated for the Social Media ban and the stop of Mobile-Money services. This here could be true. The other ones is verified and even government officials explaining the situation. So they believe that they did it for national security. Seem more like that wanted the world not to know the situation as they rigged the election and making the population enemies as the Social Media ban blocked them for addressing their lives online and keeping in touch through the apps and such there. They really looks foolish for banning it, while getting discredited for their actions against the rights to free speech and justice as individuals to express themselves even online during general elections. That has been tampered with, while the people didn’t accept it; therefore they went and used Social Media anyways! Peace.
Kizza, Joseph – ‘Social media, polls: Gov’t assures public on security’ (20.02.2016) Link: http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1417666/live-prime-minister-addresses-nation#sthash.8ucwxRCR.dpuf
Musoke, Ronald – ‘UCC “switches off” social media in Uganda on polls day’ (18.02.2016) link: http://www.independent.co.ug/news/news/11023-ucc-qswitches-offq-social-media-in-uganda-on-polls-day#sthash.2BwQEl2h.dpuf