Government orchestrated internet shutdowns in Sub-Saharan Africa have cost the region up to US$ 237 million since 2015, discovered a report. According to a report to be released by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), it estimates the cost of internet shutdowns in 10 African countries while noting that the economic losses caused by an internet disruption persist far beyond the days on which the shutdown occurs.
This is due to the fact that network disruptions unsettle supply chains and have systemic effects that harm efficiency throughout the economy.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Zimbabwe during the emergence of Tajamuka and #ThisFlag experienced a shutdown of social media with WhatsApp and Facebook being the most targeted.
Online campaigns initiated by frustrated Zimbabweans using hashtags like #MugabeMustFall and #ThisFlag have gained widespread popularity over the past weeks with the most recent #ZimbabweShutdown and #ZimShutdown2016 gaining momentum while calling for citizens to stay away from work.
On Wednesday July 6, 2016, many streets in the capital Harare stood empty as the stay-in protest took effect, while online, despite the blockage of the popular instant messaging platform Whatsapp, citizens continued voicing concerns and sharing messages of solidarity.
Despite the increasing benefits associated with access to the internet and the contribution of the ICT sector to GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa, since 2015 there have been state-initiated internet disruptions in at least 12 countries in the region.
While it is clear how internet shutdowns affect users’ fundamental rights, such as the right of access to information and freedom of expression, the impact of disruptions on a country’s economy and citizens’ livelihoods is rarely as clearly articulated due to a lack of verifiable data.
That made it necessary to develop a framework that can be used to estimate the economic cost of shutdowns in SSA.
The report shows the losses in USD terms which each of the countries studied lost during the duration of the network disruptions.
Ethiopia is one of the notable countries with repeated disruptions to specific services.
The estimated effect of a five-day targeted shutdown in Uganda in 2016 is US$ 2.2 million. If effected, a social media shutdown in Kenya would cost the country almost US$ 2 million per day.
“Using a combined number of 43 days, the cost to Ethiopia is US$132.1 million. The DR Congo, one of the pioneers of network disruptions in Africa, suffered the second highest cost, at US$46 million,” added the report.
Cameroon, which ordered a 93-day shutdown in Anglophone regions, lost US$ 38.8 million. Gambia, a low-population, low-ICT use country which suffered only a three-day shutdown faced the lowest cost, at US$160,149.