Internet Shutdowns Cost Sub-Saharan Africa $2.1B In 2019

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
coup attempt internet shutdowns
Government-imposed internet shutdowns in nine sub-Saharan African countries cost the region more than $2.1 billion in 2019 alone. In this image made from video, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announces a failed coup as he addresses the public on television after turning off the internet, Sunday, June 23, 2019. Image: ETV via AP

There were more internet shutdowns globally in 2019 than any previous year, 122 major incidents in 21 countries, nine of those being sub-Saharan African countries.

Government-imposed internet shutdowns in sub-Saharan Africa cost the region more than $2.1 billion, according to a report from internet research firm Top10VPN.

The shutdowns in sub-Saharan Africa combined involved 7,800 hours without the internet. Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe experienced the most internet shutdowns in the region.

Most internet shutdowns are politically motivated. Governments claim that false information on the internet fuels hatred and violence during crises such as fuel riots in Zimbabwe and a disputed general election in DRC.  

Digital rights group Reporters Without Borders claims that internet cuts or restrictions on access to online social networks are now “widely used in Africa as censorship tools to gag dissent and prevent coverage of unrest within a sector of the population”.

The Top10VPN report shows that there were more internet outages in 2019 than any previous year — costing countries globally around $8.05 billion.

The cost of internet blackouts was calculated on Netblocks’ and the Internet Society’s cost of shutdown tool, which uses indicators from the World Bank, International Telecommunication Union, Eurostat, and U.S. Census Bureau.

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Don’t expect to see fewer internet shutdowns in 2020.

“Authoritarian-leaning regimes appear intent on flouting human rights and disregarding economic costs in the vain attempt of controlling the flow of information during periods of unrest and protest,” said Samuel Woodhams, an author of the Top10VPN report, in a CNBC interview

“It is likely that internet shutdowns will continue to rise in frequency in 2020,” Woodhams said.

Twelve countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa experienced internet outages in 2019 — Iraq was the most economically-impacted country, at a cost of around $2.3 billion on its own.