Internet Shutdown Could Cost Ethiopia’s Booming Economy Millions of Dollars

Mulugeta Ayene/AP

Mobile internet remains down across the country since the government announced a six-month, nationwide emergency in early October.

The internet shutdown in Ethiopia will drain millions of dollars from the economy, besides undermining citizens’ rights to impart and seek information, observers of the current state of emergency say.

Mobile internet remains down across the country since the government announced a six-month, nationwide emergency in early October. The government also this week banned the use of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to communicate or to document the ongoing unrest in the country.

Ethiopia, the second most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa, has one of the lowest rates of internet and mobile phone connectivity in the world. The current protests, which have engulfed the country since Nov. 2015, have only exacerbated that situation. More than 500 people have died in the protests in both the Amhara and Oromia regions according to rights groups, 55 of whom died during a religious festival on Oct. 2.

Authorities shut down access to social media in the Oromia region four times this year, Access Now, an organization that defends the digital rights of users across the world says. With the escalating protests, however, the government has now also cut mobile internet in the capital Addis Ababa, estimating the loss of millions of dollars. In the current crackdown, access to fixed internet lines to business was however reportedly relaxed and up, but mobile internet remained off.

Limited internet access in Ethiopia
Restricted internet access in Ethiopia following the state emergency in early October.(Google Transparency Report)

The thinking behind this blanket shutdown is to curb the spread and flow of information about the unrest, says Endalk Chala, a doctoral candidate in media studies at the University of Oregon, and one of the co-founders of the Zone 9 blog in Ethiopia. (The bloggers, who have gained international recognition, have been arrested and arraigned in court in Ethiopia almost 40 times since April 2014, and some of them have even fled the country to live in exile.)

“This is a typical textbook example of repression. You shut down media, you arrest dissidents and try to use propaganda to co-opt,” Chala told Quartz. The ban on the internet, he said, is similar to the government’s directive in 2005, when it blocked text messaging via mobile phones for two years, after accusing the opposition of using it to organize anti-government protests following the elections.

Chala says the move will be quite unsustainable in the long run. The state-owned Ethio Telecom is the sole provider of internet, and while 3G is widely available in the country, few users can afford the expensive data service. A recent Brookings Institution report showed that a total 30-day disruption of the internet between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, cost Ethiopia’s economy over $8.5 million.

The latest restriction of internet access has drawn concerns from both regional and international bodies. The African Commission on People and Human Rights, which is based in Addis Ababa, said the government should unblock the internet in the country. As a rising economic powerhouse, Ethiopia is facing a critical moment as two of the country’s biggest ethnic communities protest against the government.

“Internet shutdowns do not restore order,” Ephraim Percy Kenyanito, the sub-Saharan Africa policy analyst at Access Now recently wrote. “They hamper journalism, obscure the truth or what is happening on the ground, and stop people from getting the information they need to keep safe.”

To a large extent, the government might be succeeding in muffling both the direct flow or the volume of information coming out of the country, Chala says. “But I am not sure if they will stop the movement [of protest] that is already out of their control,” he said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.