Read the latest from the Web Foundation

News and Blogs

Webinar: How do social media taxes impact on internet access?

Web Foundation · June 20, 2019

This post was originally published by Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) at

Governments across the globe are establishing consumer taxes for over-the-top (OTT) services — including social media apps — as a way to generate revenue in the age of digital economy. This trend is particularly apparent across Sub-Saharan Africa, where such taxes were introduced in Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia in 2018.

To examine the impact of social media taxation on affordable and meaningful access to the internet, A4AI hosted a webinar with issue experts that revealed four key lessons.

  • Governments use a variety of reasons to justify the taxes. As noted by  Eleanor Sarpong, Deputy Director and Policy Lead for A4AI, governments have cited several grounds for the taxes, including curbing the loss of revenue from legacy and traditional telecommunications companies; creating a fair and competitive playing field in the ICT sector; reducing rumours and misinformation online; and moderating online speech for national security reasons.
  • Tax impact assessments prove beneficial for governments prior to tax implementation. Christoph Stork from Research ICT Solutions presented the research undertaken by his firm and A4AI on the case of Benin. The report found that such taxes would decrease broadband adoption, broadband usage and operator revenues, and that the cost of implementing the taxes would be too high. Ultimately, Stork noted, the government of Benin needs to be lauded for considering a detailed tax impact assessment before introducing new taxes.

When consumer taxes for OTT services are not designed properly, it can have an adverse effect on the objective of revenue generation, erode trust in government and impact how people use the internet.

A4AI will continue to engage in fiscal policy issues that negatively impact affordable and meaningful access to the internet by producing evidence and leading country and regional engagements and global advocacy efforts.

Watch the full webinar and explore the slides.

For updates about our work, sign up to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter at @webfoundation.

To receive a weekly news brief on the most important stories in tech, subscribe to The Web This Week.

Your comment has been sent successfully.