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In a comprehensive study detailing the economic toll of internet shutdowns in Sub-Saharan Africa for the year 2023, Ethiopia emerges as the hardest-hit nation, bearing the brunt of widespread disruptions.
The financial toll, quantified at $1.59 billion, includes the diverse consequences of internet restrictions. This total includes the economic losses incurred by businesses, the costs associated with disrupted online services, and the broader impact on the nation’s economic landscape, a report by Top10vpn indicates.
In sub-Saharan Africa, a total cost of $1.74 billion was incurred as a result of internet shutdowns and social media blackouts for 30,785 hours, while 84.8 million internet users were affected.
Over 28.9 million internet users in Ethiopia have faced unprecedented challenges as a result of disruptions that have spanned popular social media and messaging services, including TikTok, Facebook, Telegram, and YouTube. The nationwide block, initiated on February 9, 2023, followed religious tensions and calls for anti-government protests.
“Access to Facebook, YouTube, Telegram, and TikTok was restricted by authorities in Ethiopia due to religious tensions. The blocks were implemented in early February and would not be lifted until over five months later, in July. Demand for VPN services peaked at 3,651% higher than average following the start of the restrictions,” the report read.
The report further indicates that the prolonged internet blackout lasting 3,414 hours in 2023 has left a regressive mark on Ethiopia’s economy. Businesses, individuals, and the overall digital infrastructure were victims of restricted online access. The extensive social media shutdown, spanning 11,496 hours, also led to dire consequences on the economy, communication, commerce, and daily interactions.
At the regional level, the Tigray region in Ethiopia stands out for enduring the longest-running internet shutdown, surpassing a staggering 960 days. This disruption paints a stark picture of the hurdles faced by the six million inhabitants in the region. Additionally, an internet blackout in the northern region of Amhara occurred in early August 2023 in response to escalating tensions with the local militia, with partial restoration since November.
The report read, “Ethiopian authorities imposed an internet blackout in the northern region of Amhara in early August in response to escalating tensions with local militias. Although internet connectivity has been partially restored since November, restrictions in the region remain.”
Beyond the economic strain, the report highlights the alarming human rights abuses resulting from these internet restrictions. The right to peaceful assembly, a fundamental pillar of democratic societies, has been significantly curtailed. As citizens grapple with restricted access to information and communication channels.
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