Uganda’s government recently implemented a law forcing mobile users to pay a daily tax if they wish to use social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Skype.
The decision has caused a fair degree of consternation among citizens of the African state. They claim it violates tenets of net neutrality and does away with a level playing field.
If you’re currently resident in Uganda and looking to circumvent the social media tax, your best bet is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The use of a VPN will sidestep any government restrictions on sites and apps, protect your privacy, and unlock a host of geo-restricted content such as Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, and BBC iPlayer.
VPN software sets up an encrypted tunnel which routes all the internet traffic to and from your device via an intermediary server. This compels host websites and apps into thinking you’re accessing the web from a location outside your current city/town. In this scenario, it’s almost impossible for hackers or government agencies to snoop on your online behavior.
Opting to use a VPN is perfectly legal across most parts of the world, with the exception of Iran, North Korea, and possibly the UAE.
How do I use a VPN to evade Uganda’s social media tax?
Follow these steps to acquire an IP address outside of Uganda and unlock social media sites:
- Read through our list of recommended VPNs and settle on a service. We recommend ExpressVPN
- Sign up with your credit card information and wait for your login details to be emailed to you
- Download the relevant apps for your device. We recommend you do this directly from the VPN’s website or app store
- Clear your cookies and restart your device
- Login to the native app and connect to a server located outside Uganda. We recommend servers in Europe and North America due to strong privacy laws
- A VPN icon on the top of your smartphone screen or on the taskbar of your PC/Mac indicates a successful connection
- Now you’re protected and safe on the internet and can access social media sites in Uganda without paying any taxes
Not all VPNs are born equal — so don’t opt for one that you uncover during a generic web search. In this article, we reveal the best VPNs for Uganda based on the following factors:
- Strong encryption and additional security factors
- A no-logging policy
- A large network of servers across the world
- Fast, reliable speeds
- Multiple simultaneous connections so you can split the bill
- Apps for Android and iOS
- Ability to unblock geo-restricted content
ExpressVPN leverages hardy encryption standards. It uses 256-bit AES-CBC with both HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. Additional security features include an internet kill switch (the company refers to it as a ‘network lock’) that temporarily blocks all web traffic if the connection to the VPN unexpectedly drops.
Uganda’s government has specifically mentioned how state authorities will monitor and curb the use of VPNs. This means they’re also trying to monitor the content of your communications. ExpressVPN has a stated policy of not storing any user data — this should please privacy advocates because the policy makes it extremely difficult for state authorities to monitor your web activity. There’s a sliver of metadata retention but the company insists that it engages in this practice simply to improve service levels, and individual IP addresses are never logged.
When it comes to servers, ExpressVPN offers a wide number of options across the globe. At the time of writing, over 1,500 servers are spread across 148 locations in 94 countries.
If you’re looking to stream geo-restricted content, then ExpressVPN is a worthy choice. It evades the Netflix ban on VPNs with ease and is similarly compatible with BBC iPlayer and Hulu. It also supports torrenting.
Apps for Android and iOS are available as well as desktop clients for Windows and MacOS. A single subscription allows 3 devices to connect concurrently.
DISCOUNTED DEAL: Get three months free if you sign up for ExpressVPN’s annual plan. The deal includes its 30-day no-quibbles money-back guarantee, so you’ll receive a full refund if unsatisfied.
Read our review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN encrypts internet traffic using the 256-bit AES protocol and 2,048-bit RSA keys, which is considered “military grade.” These are considered to be top-tier protocols and will protect your web activity from government snoopers. Additional security features include DNS leak protection and a process-specific kill switch.
The company adheres to a zero-logs policy. This means it will not store any user data related to sessions, traffic, or timestamps.
In some cases, NordVPN has received official requests to hand over user data from government surveillance agencies. It’s possible that the Ugandan government might attempt something similar given all the rhetoric it’s spewing out these days. But the policy meant there was no data saved on the servers that could identify and incriminate users. Another reassuring factor is that NordVPN is incorporated in Panama, which means it doesn’t have to automatically comply with any data retention laws.
Its server network is vast with plentiful options across the globe. At the time of writing, the company operates 4,596 servers spread across 62 countries. You can also select one for a specific purpose such as anti-DDoS, video streaming, double VPN, Tor over VPN, or dedicated IP.
This provider unlocks most geo-restricted content including Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. It’s also compatible with torrenting. A single paid subscription allows for six simultaneous connections – one more than the industry standard of five. NordVPN’s speedy and reliable service has been around for over a decade.
Apps for Android and iOS are available as well as desktop software for Windows and MacOS.
READER DEAL: Save a generous 66% on NordVPN’s 2-year deal. That works out to be US$3.99/month.
Read our review of NordVPN.
CyberGhost uses 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and MD5 HMAC authentication. An internet kill switch is included too, which acts as an additional security layer. Other security features include an ad blocker, anti-malware defense, and anti-tracking.
CyberGhost has made a concerted effort to amp up the quality of its service ever since it was acquired by a UK-registered firm last year. Subscribers enjoy a much higher number of servers, firmer encryption, and better speeds. These traits should appeal to users looking for a quality VPN at an attractive price point.
This VPN provider adheres to an internal policy of not storing any user data, so that should ease privacy concerns. The company is originally from Romania, which does not impose any mandatory data retention requirements.
At the time of writing, Cyberghost offers 2,440 servers spread across 60 countries including plenty of options in Asia, Europe, and North America. It can reliably unblock a host of streaming services, including Netflix. A single subscription can connect up to 5 devices at one time.
Cyberghost offers apps for Android and iOS as well as a desktop client for Windows and MacOS.
Read our full review of Cyberghost Pro.
IPVanish uses rigid encryption standards. Specifically, it deploys 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048 key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. The latter feature means that even if snoopers gain access to your encryption key, all your past web sessions will remain encrypted, secure, and out of reach. An internet kill switch is also included by default.
This company is registered in the US, which might be disconcerting for some users given the massive assault on privacy undertaken by the likes of the NSA. However, IPVanish is completely logless, which means all web activity in its entirety remains hidden. This includes session history, choice of servers, and bandwidth utilized.
At the time of writing, IPVanish offers more than 1,000 servers spread across over 60 countries. These are enough to find a reliable connection to unblock social media in Uganda.
This provider is known for its streaming capabilities. IPVanish can reliably unblock services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. It also permits torrenting on all servers. Many users find IPVanish to be an excellent option for Kodi because it allows them to download the Android APK directly to their device. The interface is also remote control-friendly for Kodi devices that lack a keyboard and mouse. An IPVanish plan allows up to five simultaneous connections.
IPVanish makes apps for both iOS and Android as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS. It offers a gargantuan 10 simultaneous connections, which is the most generous among the providers on this list. That’s a compelling reason to opt for the service.
EXCLUSIVE DEAL: Comparitech readers can get a discount of up to 60% on IPVanish plans. This ships with a 7-day money-back guarantee so you can quit if unsatisfied with the service.
Read our review of IPVanish.
PrivateVPN is a relatively new service but that doesn’t make its product inferior by any stretch of the imagination. You can opt for 128 or 256-bit encryption, depending on your chosen protocol. All packages incorporate perfect forward secrecy, DNS leak protection, and an internet kill switch.
In our user review, we praised PrivateVPN for being fast, unblocking a number of geo-locked streaming services, and shoring up your connection with the strongest available encryption.
At the time of writing, PrivateVPN offers a little over 80 servers spread across 56 locations. The US and Europe occupy the bulk of servers so you shouldn’t face any issues unblocking social media sites in Uganda.
A single subscription will grant access to up to five devices at all times. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.
Read our review of PrivateVPN.
Should I use a free VPN in Uganda?
The interwebs are abundant with free VPN offerings. Such providers attract the untrained eye because they don’t ask users for an upfront payment via a credit card, PayPal, or Bitcoin. Unfortunately, that’s where the charm usually ends.
One of the fundamental reasons you’re trying to access the web in Uganda with a VPN is for the reassurance that your digital footprint is hidden and secure. Free VPNs don’t inherently value your privacy or anonymity; they offer an extremely limited selection of servers, incorporate weak encryption standards, and may resort to bandwidth throttling to reduce network congestion. In some instances, free VPNs have tracked and mined user data to sell to advertisers for a profit. Many inject tracking cookies into your browser or insert ads onto web pages.
Since the web is under threat in Uganda, we believe it’s in your best interests to spend a little bit of cash to ensure your privacy and anonymity aren’t under threat.
Is the internet free in Uganda?
According to advocacy body Freedom House, Uganda’s internet landscape has a partly free status in 2017. That’s just a notch higher than “not free”. This ranking is likely to deteriorate further after imposing the new social media laws.
Freedom House notes that bloggers in the African country have been incarcerated for criticising the president, saying, “under the seventh term of re-elected President Yoweri Museveni, the government took measures that demonstrated its increasing intolerance for critical online content,” with “authorities targeting citizens directly for their critical online commentary.”
Both academics and bloggers have been charged with cyber harassment crimes simply for opting to speak out against the state. The new social media laws could be another attempt by the government to promote its totalitarian instincts. This makes it even more important to opt to use a VPN in the country — your personal safety and security are at stake. As such, if you’re a journalist, whistleblower, blogger, or human rights activist in Uganda, you may want to hide your identity on the web. Our guide to blogging anonymously is a useful read if you’re looking to tread down this path.
What else can I do with a VPN in Uganda?
Using a VPN will help you evade the social media tax, but it has other use cases too. One is to use the software to safely and securely download torrents. It’s unclear whether torrenting is allowed in Uganda, but we think you should remain on the safe side by hiding your digital footprint. Logging on with a VPN first will block your ISP from figuring out what you’re up to on the web.
Comparitech does not condone or encourage any violation of copyright restrictions. Please consider the law and risks of piracy before engaging in this act.
“Flag of Uganda” by Anders J. Moen licensed under Public Domain