No doubt, internet use is a basic human right that should not be trampled upon. This is however the case in several places in the world. Arbitrary shutdown of internet service and infringement of freedom of speech are common actions carried out in some countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America. It is alarming, and rather unfortunate to see such actions become more prevalent. People living in these places where denial or regulation of internet use are often consolidated are faced with different levels of restrictions yearly. Countries in Sub-Sahara Africa that make the list include Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, Chad, Guinea, Burundi and Togo.
The internet censorship and shutdowns have had economic implications. According to a Top10VPN report, the overall economic loss experienced worldwide due to shutdowns amounts up to $4.01 billion in 2020, a 50% drop from what was recorded in 2019. Although the cases in 2020 reduced, compared to 2019, they lasted for longer periods; a 74% increase in fact. Top10VPN, in the report, considered both national and regional Internet blackouts that are significant enough to have an economic effect, leaving out disruptions resulting from natural and technical causes.
The economic impact for the Sub-Saharan African region, compared to 2019, dropped by a drastic 810%; from a loss of $2,160m to $237m. The economic cost is gotten from reliable media sources and evaluated using Netblocks and Internet Society’s Cost of Shutdown Tool. The calculations are based on economic value of internet users in the affected region.
According to the report, Ethiopia lost $111.3million due to shut down on internet use due to unrest in the country. The blackout lasted for 1,536 hours and affected a total of 19.5 million users. This is a worsened condition compared to 2019 when the country lost $56.8 million from 346 hours of disruption. Sudan lost $68.7 million to Internet disruptions which lasted for 36 hours, in 2020. In 2019, it lost $1.9 billion. Tanzania lost $27.5 million from 264 hours of total Internet disruption and 168 hours of social media shutdown. Chad lost $23.1 million from 4,608 hours of restriction on internet use. Guinea lost $6.1 million within 238 hours of internet restriction. Burundi and Togo lost less than $300,000 after 24 hours of social media shutdowns during elections periods.
It doesn’t tell well on countries where the use of internet is censored. Sub-Saharan African countries which placed restrictions on the use of the internet have faced economic implications, which led a retrogressive GDP.