Ugandan regulator’s war with mobile operators and social media users takes a new twist

The ongoing feud between mobile network operators, Uganda Communications Commissions (UCC), and social media users have taken a new twist. The Uganda Communications Commission announced that it has acquired a new equipment to monitor the daily revenue of the telecommunication companies. The new intelligent network monitoring system tracks all the calls of the telecom operators and knows how much they generate daily.

It would be recalled that this dispute emanated as a result of the agencies interests in monitoring the Shs44 trillion ($11.79 billion) mobile money business which is the cash cow of the industry. However, the telecoms operators led by MTN and Airtel are protesting to defend their business secrecy. At the height of the MTN mobile money scandal, it was alleged that the operator had been under-declaring the volumes of its Mobile Money platform. Apparently, MTN was reportedly making Shs14 billion a day but was declaring Shs9 billion.

“We have a solution in place and it is functional and we know how much they are earning and we do not have to beg them to tell us and they know it. We are using intelligent network monitoring system to track their revenues and government will collect the correct values based on what the system generates,” the UCC executive director, Godfrey Mutabazi said.

The system is also going to track the newly introduced social media tax in order to stop what President Yoweri Museveni called lugambo (gossip). This decision has been condemned by human rights activists, social media users and opposition leaders who see this as “diversionary, deceptive, injurious to individual freedoms and burdensome”. However, the president decided to move on with the decision which he says will widen the tax base in the 2018/19 budget.