Sub-Saharan Africa lost $2.16b to Internet shutdown in 2019

(The Guardian) — Countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) lost about $2.16 billion in 2019 to the shutting down of the Internet and social media for 7,800 hours, mostly by government authorities

According to the Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns in 2019 report, Middle East & N. Africa lost $3.135 billion in 577 hours of shut down; Asia lost $1.68 billion in 9,677 hours shut down, while South America lost $1.07 billion to 171 hours.

13 countries in Africa made the list of first 21 countries with major impact of the Internet shutdown in the year under review. Sudan had 1,560 shutdown hours, where it lost $1, 866.3 million. Algeria with 19.7 million Internet users, lost 50 hours to shutdown, which cost it $199.8 million.

Chad with one million Internet users, lost $125.9 million to 4,728 hours of shutdown, while DRC, which has seven million Internet subscribers lost $61.2 million to 456 hours of shutdown. Ethiopia with 19.5 million Internet users, lost 346 hours, costing it $56.8 million.

Others, including Zimbabwe lost $34.5 million to 144 hours of Internet shutdown. It has 4.5 million Internet subscribers. Mauritania with 900,000 online users lost 264 hours to shutdown, costing it$13.8 million. Egypt, which had 43.9 million Internet users as at 2019, lost 24 hours, which cost it $3.8 million. Benin lost 21 hours and $1.1 million to the challenge. Gabon with Internet population of one million, lost 29 hours and $1.1 million to the shutdown by government forces.

Liberia and Eritrea with 377,000 and 100,000 users lost 12 hours, $100, 000 and 240 hours and $400,000 respectively.

The report noted in all, $8.05 billion was the economic cost of Internet shutdowns globally in 2019, which was an increase of 235 per cent since 2015/16. The report said 122 major shutdowns took place in 21 countries in the year under review.

Total hours of 18,225 were lost in the process globally to all major shutdowns around the world. The report claims 11,857 hours were lost to Internet blackouts, while 6,368 hours was lost by social media shutdowns.

According to the report Iraq was the most economically-impacted nation, followed by Sudan and India. WhatsApp was the most-blocked platform with 6,236 total hours of disruption.

The body said it collated every national and region-wide incident, and used the determined the duration of the restrictions and Cost tool to calculate their economic impact.

The tool was developed by Internet monitoring NGO Netblocks and advocacy group The Internet Society, and uses indicators from the World Bank, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Eurostat and US Census.

The report noted that where access to popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or YouTube have been blocked, the move can be circumvented by using a VPN.

According to the report, during the analysis of every Internet shutdown in 2019, some general trends emerged. They most often occur in response to protests or civil unrest, especially surrounding elections, as authoritarian regimes look to restrict the flow of information and maintain their grip on power.

In economic terms, disruptions not only affect the formal economy but also the informal, especially in less well-developed nations. There can also be lasting damage with the loss of investor confidence and faltering development, all of which makes our estimates conservative.

On the human rights side, the report noted that these shutdowns clearly impact citizens’ freedom of expression and the right to information and may even result in an increase in violence.

Despite their negative impact on the global economy, human rights and democratic processes, there is little to suggest that internet shutdowns will stop in 2020.

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