Is Africa Looking to Cripple Freedom of Speech?
With such large technological development, freedom of speech has taken a different turn over the years. Now, it’s more effective online than it ever was offline. This digital freedom is highly essential and should be protected by any means. However, many governments in the world obviously disagree. Censored content, and ridiculous rules regarding the Internet can be found all over the world.
As a matter of fact, while the developed countries are reaching new technological goals with each passing day, some still lack even the most basic digital things, such as regular access to the Internet.
In 2016, approximately 76 percent of the population in Europe were Internet users. Now the numbers are even higher. However, in the same year, the percentage of Internet users in Africa was much lower. Only 25% of the whole population. Unfortunately, many countries on this continent are dealing with a series of rules and regulations regarding the freedom of the Internet, which directly affects freedom of speech.
With the latest events in Uganda and Tanzania, Africa just went one step in reverse when it comes to digital freedom.
The Regressive New Regulations in Tanzania & Uganda
Tanzania recently faced some serious regressive social media and blogging regulations. All of the country’s online bloggers, podcasters, and even radio and YouTube personalities from now on will have to pay for a license. Additionally, they will also have to pay annual fees if they want to continue broadcasting their content, and the prices are ridiculously high, considering the country’s living standards. While the average monthly net salary (after tax) is around 300 US dollars, the licenses overall cost around $900. Just to run a personal blog.
But what really shook Africa’s freedom of speech was the recent Uganda social media regulation. Apparently, Ugandans will now have to pay daily taxes if they want to use social media, as well as other apps. On the list, besides Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or WhatsApp, can be found apps such as Google Hangouts, Tinder, Grindr, and Android Messages.
The netizens of Uganda were outraged after the bill was passed and went into effect at the beginning of July. In protest of this, they started using Virtual Private Networks. As a matter of fact, ever since the law came into force, the search for “VPN” on Google skyrocketed and hit the maximum 100 value, soon after the tax came into effect. It’s one of the best weapons in the fight against Internet censorship. These VPNs allow you to anonymously use the Internet.
In Uganda’s case, when citizens use a VPN device, their traffic will be encrypted. This way, Internet Service Providers won’t be able to tell apart whether someone opened Facebook, or if another website/app is not taxed and Ugandans won’t have to pay the taxes on social media usage. Soon after the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni stated that social media encouraged gossip is costing the country a loss of income, since the new law was imposed. Now, the social media users will have to pay 200 shilling on days when they use social media. This means that if someone wants to log on to Facebook today, they will have to pay $0.05 worth of tax. In the meantime, the government is also trying to portray VPNs as a more expensive way of reaching the Internet. While this is somewhat true, the netizens of Uganda are doing this more as a rebellious move, and to prove their point despite the additional cost.
Uganda Is Trying to Block VPNs
As a response to the rise of VPN usage in the country, the Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi, declared that they are going to block VPN applications. This means that evading the social media tax will be much harder once this has been done.
According to Mutabazi, telecom companies are going to help in doing this, as they already promised that they will block VPNs. However, this won’t be an easy mission. Even Mutabazi himself declared that there are so many VPNs available, that it’s going to be very difficult to do this to all of them.
In the meantime, freedom of expression is a severe problem in a large part of Africa. Although this is a non-negotiable question in democratic societies, many countries are doing the exact opposite of what should be done. Over the years, governments in several African countries have shut down the Internet, including more recently in Cameroon and Ethiopia.
Nevertheless, this is a real issue that has been growing over the years. Luckily for netizens all over the world, using a Virtual Private Network is a great way to avoid any kind of Internet censorship. It promotes freedom of speech, and as long as there are VPNs, people will have the option to browse the web freely.
Best VPNs for Uganda That Are Currently Working
Only 19 percent of the overall population is using the Internet in this country. However, staying protected is crucial and currently Uganda still has VPNs that are working. Among them are the following:
With a long history in the business, ExpressVPN is currently one of the top providers in the industry. And although it’s a little bit more expensive compared to others, the provider still has some impressive features. Besides, it offers an excellent 30-day refund policy.
Buffered VPN is one of the best choices for Uganda, and other African countries. The provider is very secure, fast, and can unblock content all around the world. It will successfully hide your IP address, and keep you protected with its 256-bit Blowfish Encryption, a protocol that’s also employed by the US military. The prices are affordable, and Buffered VPN also has a risk-free 30-day money-back policy.
As one of the best providers in the industry, NordVPN is also very cost-efficient. With its cheap pricing options, this VPN can be suitable for people on a tight budget. Besides, if you search through their website, you will also find that NordVPN has a 3-day free trial. Moreover, the provider has a 30-day refund policy if you are not satisfied with its performance.
CyberGhost is a fast provider with servers all around the world. Its security and privacy features make it one of the best choices for countries such as Uganda. CyberGhost also has a free version, which is great for users that only want the basic features of a VPN. The paid version is much more advanced, and if you decide on using it, the prices are very affordable. CyberGhost also has a great money-back policy within the first 30 days of purchasing.
Last but not least, Hotspot Shield is also one of the top providers in the industry. There has been some negative feedback regarding their data collecting. Nevertheless, this VPN provider is still perceived as trustworthy, from both users and experts. Besides, it has a free version, it’s secure, and offers decent speeds on its servers.