In an interesting statement towards the end of 2017, Godfrey Mutabazi, Executive Director at the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) said that they are working on launching their own versions of popular social media platforms like Twitter in 2018.
One report quotes Mutabazi as saying that the UCC already has an investor who will assist with bringing the social media platforms to life.
Mutabazi cited content being hosted outside Uganda as one of the reasons why the UCC is pursuing developing its own versions of social media platforms and explained that “instead of Ugandans, for example, visiting Twitter, they will have something local that they will be able to use.”
“The moment you access the Internet, you first go to America and come back when you are surfing. But if we had our own content here, it will be cheaper,” Mutabazi is quoted as saying.
Although the argument for local content and locally hosted content is a sound one, the argument for a government developed and operated social media platform is dicey at best. The “great firewall in China” gives us a snippet of what happens when a government has influence and direct control over which digital platforms citizens use.
This move can also be seen, ultimately, as a way for the Ugandan government to eventually monitor and censor what users say on these social media platforms.
Mutabazi explained that, as a way to get more Ugandans to use the planned social media platforms, government and telecommunication industry organizations will be “encouraged” to use and promote the government developed social media platforms.
A worrying suggestion considering that during the run-up to the previous presidential elections in Uganda, the UCC “encouraged” telecommunications companies to shut down social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as well as instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp to “avoid violence” during the elections.
Of course, it also remains to be seen whether Ugandans will adopt these social media platforms.
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