Following the total internet shutdown in Uganda after electoral proceedings, the 5 days of complete blackout did not leave everyone the same. The restoration of the internet after those 5 days came with censorship on key digital services online, and social media.
Uganda harbors multitudes of start-ups in tech and online businesses whose livelihoods totally depend on the internet. Even with the internet restored, social media continues to be blocked. To make matters even worse, almost all google services other than Gmail were blocked. The use of digital tools especially — the google suite of applications which are highly depended-on by literally every online business — is only possible with the Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Are VPNs the solutions?
Currently, the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) has its ups and downs. With the current censorship, certain VPNs meant to secure tunnels for businesses to communicate have also been blocked. Some others used by people trying to by-pass the social media blockage have also been blocked.
One of the downsides of using a VPN is hacking. In a tweet by Stanbic Bank Uganda, users of the Stanbic bank app were encouraged to turn OFF VPN so as to prevent hacking and cyber-attacks and to keep their banking safe.
The irony from all this is, Uganda introduced the OTT tax meant to be paid by users in order to access social media platforms. Many Ugandans embarked on buying the OTT packages from their mobile service providers, some even purchased a yearly package, which increased their frustration with the internet censorship in Uganda.
The internet censorship in Uganda is suffocating innovation
In the 21st century, everything almost always depends on access to a reliable internet connection. With the current internet censorship in Uganda, all services which rely on the use of the internet have been barred. Must we mention how much needed the internet is?
The internet is used for:-
- Research and access to information
- E-commerce and trading
- Access to services (Transport, Health, and Finance)
- Remote working and collaborative projects
among other services
A one David Okwii, a senior developer and online business store owner (Odukar Store) took to Twitter to share his grievances on how this internet shutdown has continued to affect online businesses. In a Twitter thread, he shares a list of businesses currently affected by the internet censorship in Uganda.
Another eye-opening story that has caught my attention is one from the CEO of UgaBus app Uganda, Hakisa Ronald. A business model that he has built for over 7 years now is crippling down due to the internet censorship in Uganda.
Digital content creators too have come out to speak out on the current internet blockage, as this has continued to affected access to information. In a tweet, Hamza Kwehangana from GoTechUg, one of Uganda’s fastest-growing tech youtube channel says;
Innovation is at the heart of Uganda’s economy, but with these sanctions on internet usage, many livelihoods are being affected. The government should wake-up and put an end to such a barbaric act of utter lack of information. How has the internet censorship in Uganda affected you? What do you think is the best way forward from this? We leave the ball to you.