Weekly digest for 30 July 2021

KEY READING FOR THE WEEK This week’s main story is about the next technology frontier: augmented reality (AR). In its second quarter earnings call the 28th of July, Facebook said it was spending billions on AR research and development. Facebook’s idea is to create an immersive virtual world where you can “teleport” into different experiences. Of course, AR comes with a set of challenging regulatory issues. In a recent report, Deloitte highlights some of these, mainly around privacy and copyright. For example, if AR glasses are used as you walk down the street, do individuals have the right to refuse to […]

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Workshop on digital taxation in Africa

RIS was a presenter in a recent workshop held by Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). Dr. Stork presented evidence that shows that few regulators or tax authorities have considered the trade-off between higher taxation and lower affordability and access to ICTs. “To be able to provide e-services such as health, education and fintech, we need increased connectivity. ICT taxes make these services either too expensive or less attractive to invest in.” You can find Dr. Stork’s presentation to CIPESA here.

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Weekly digest for 23 July 2021

KEY READING FOR THE WEEK This week’s main story is from Speedtest by Ookla comparing mobile broadband speeds around the world. The latest results are up until the end of  June 2021. For Africa, the results are a mixed bag: the highest scoring African country is South Africa at position 56 out of 137. South Africa lost 3 places compared to the previous month. Another African country worth noting is Uganda, which lost 5 places to position 127 out of 137 countries. For Uganda, this shows another aspect of the higher taxes imposed on the sector: higher taxes means higher […]

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Tanzania: SIM card levy

The Tanzanian government has proposed a SIM card levy, charged to airtime recharges. Unfortunately, it’s not clear exactly what the proposed levy is, nor how it would work. In this short presentation, RIS analyses two proposals from government in terms of its impact on the ICT sector, consumers and the wider economy. We find that focusing on increasing broadband penetration by 10% would yield USD 178.5 million, more than the tax revenues from either formulation of the SIM card tax. Either proposed SIM card tax will take money out of the sector, potentially threatening the viability of smaller operators and potentially lead to […]

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Weekly digest for 16 July 2021

KEY READING FOR THE WEEK This week’s main story is from a new report issued by the Internet Society on progress towards the goal of 80% of African internet traffic accessed in Africa by 2020. IXPs generate cost savings by reducing the cost of international connectivity and lowering the latency of internet traffic by up to 98%, improving the user experience. South Africa is the only country to have reached the 80% target, with Kenya and Nigeria close behind at 70%. The common feature of the three countries is that their IXPs have at least 50 members. This is the […]

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Weekly digest for 9 July 2021

KEY READING FOR THE WEEK This week’s main story is a follow-up from last week on the tax increases in Kenya and Uganda. Tax increases in both countries were effective from the 1st of July. But the difference is that, in Uganda, the major operators (Airtel and MTN) have absorbed the 12% price increase. Smaller operators, like Smile, initially passed the price increase on, but had to change course and absorb the price increase. In Kenya, in contrast, the price increase has been passed immediately onto consumers. Why the different treatment? Part of the explanation is that an airtime tax of […]

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Weekly digest for 2 July 2021

KEY READING FOR THE WEEK This week’s main story is about the tax increases on internet data in Kenya and Uganda. In Kenya, the excise duty on data (as well as calls) was increased from 15% to 20%, effective 1 July 2021. In Uganda, the social media tax of 200 shillings per day has been replaced by a 12% excise duty on internet data, also effective on 1 July. Medical and educational services are excluded from the duty, though it’s not clear how the exclusion of medical and educational services would actually work. The increase in excise duties highlights the […]

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Weekly digest for 25 June 2021

KEY READING FOR THE WEEK This week’s main story is about the status of 5G in Africa. While plenty of countries are investigating 5G, only two countries offer fully commercial 5G services on the continent – Kenya and South Africa. In Kenya, 5G is offered based on a 1-year trial license. In South Africa, 5G is offered based on the emergency allocation of spectrum due to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. That allocation is meant to expire later on this year. The next country that is closest to launching 5G services is Mauritius. Mauritius decided to forego an auction […]

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Weekly digest for 18 June 2021

KEY READING FOR THE WEEK This week’s main story is from Tanzania, where the government has announced that it will remove VAT on smartphones, tablets, and modems. The rationale for setting aside VAT is to increase broadband penetration from its current level of 38% to over 80% by 2025. This decision is a welcome development in a continent where most governments’ see the ICT sector as a cash cow and have imposed extremely high taxes. Often taxes are specific to the ICT sector and considerably higher than for other sectors. In Sudan, for example, the VAT rate for the ICT sector […]

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Weekly digest for 11 June 2021

KEY READING FOR THE WEEK This week’s main story is an overview of the growth of the submarine cable market. Back in 2012, content providers (such as Amazon, Google, Facebook) accounted for 10% of total capacity. By 2020, that number had grown to 66% of total capacity. As a consequence, content providers are driving submarine cable investments. For example, both Google and Facebook have invested in new submarine cables connecting South East Asia to North America. The growth in data usage for content providers also shows how data is driving access. Content providers drive data usage, which in turn, drives data […]

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