Internet Shutdowns in Ethiopia

An Internet shutdown can be defined as an “intentional disruption of Internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a specific population or within a location often to exert control over the flow of information”.

According to the Freedom of the Net Report, 2018 Ethiopia had several incidents of government internet disruptions between 2017 and 2018 mainly associated with antigovernment protests and online criticism. Amongst the internet disruptions were:

  • Internet shutdowns affecting the Amhara and Oromia regions during student protests in December 2017;

  • Shutdown of mobile internet services following the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in February 2018; and

  • Internet disruption in Oromia in March 2018.

The Report notes restoration of broad internet connectivity in April 2018 when the new Prime Minister Abey Ahmed began instituting reforms albeit the incidence of disruptions in August 2018. Then on June 11 this year, the internet was disrupted nationwide to prevent students from cheating in national exams and on June 22, Ethiopia went offline amid reports of a coup attempt targeting the northwestern Amhara regional state.  

According to the internet monitoring NGO, Netblocks, each day of an internet blackout costs the Ethiopian government nearly $4.5million.

Dawit Bekele, the Africa regional director for the Internet Society is quoted as saying that.  “State-ordered internet shutdowns are on the verge of becoming the ‘new normal”.