cyber control

Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt… the hidden cost of internet blackouts

By Eman El-Sherbiny

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Posted on February 16, 2021 08:55

An empty computer science classroom is seen at the University of Somalia in Mogadishu
An empty computer classroom in Mogadishu, July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Communication technology is a double-edged sword. It can empower people to access and share information globally, or be used as an instrument of political and economic control. While hopes were raised by the Arab Spring a decade ago, the years since have seen multiple internet blackouts in many African countries.

In the past ten years, the practice of jamming cyber communication has become a new tool by certain nations and governments.

Perhaps the most famous example of all is Egypt during the Arab Spring in 2011. For five days, the Egyptian government shut down all internet communication, to disrupt the 2011 protests.

Eventually, this cost the Egyptian economy $90m, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Had the blackout gone for a whole year, it would have put a dent in Egypt’s GDP of around 3-4%.

“Most of the blackouts were across the entire [country] so it affected every person, business, and organisation. They were not targeted on particular institutions but affected everyone in that place,” says Darrell M. West, the vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institute.

Mohamed Basiouny, an owner of a cyber cafe confirms what

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