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Access 10 April 2018

Internet Shutdowns cannot be a solution to political challenges in Chad

Verengai Mabika
By Verengai MabikaSenior Policy Advisor - Africa

The Internet Society is concerned with the continuous disruptions of Internet and social media services in Chad in the month of April, 2018.

Internet shutdowns are not a solution to political and economic challenges.

Government ordered disruptions have been reported from 2nd of April 2018, in the context of political protests and unrest across the country.  This is not the first time Internet access has been suspended in Chad. In January 2018, the Internet was disrupted following demonstrations organized by civil society organizations. Again in 2016, Chad experienced an eight-month social media cutoff following controversial elections in 2016.

While we recognize that the Chadian government has a duty to maintain public order, there is little evidence on the benefits of shutdowns in preventing any sort of violent protests. On the other hand, there is growing evidence on the collateral damages resulting from taking people off the network.

One of these damages is economic. These disruptions have been estimated to have costed the country €18 million (approximately 13 billion CFA francs), according to Internet Without Borders. These are extremely conservative numbers that do not even take into account a set of cumulative economic factors.

Shutdowns also affect thousands of local entrepreneurs and professionals who rely on connectivity to work. Beyond immediate costs, an environment marked by frequent and arbitrary network blackouts shakes the trust that people have in the network as an infrastructure to build and support their economic activities. Long term ICT-led growth cannot be built if one doesn’t know if tomorrow will be connected or not.

At a time when governments of the world, including the Chadian government, have committed to leverage the power of the Internet and ICTs to reach the UN goals of Sustainable Development, specifically Goal 9c which seeks to significantly increase access to ICT and strive to provide universal and affordable access to Internet in the LDCs (least-developed countries) by 2020”, blanket restrictions of access set the path in the wrong direction. Internet shutdowns threaten these hopes, in particularly for a population that is the youngest in the world, and that needs access and connectivity to innovate and shape the future.

By cutting Internet access, the Chadian government is violating human rights and international law, in particular resolution A/HRC/32/L.20 of 2016 which strongly condemns Internet censorship. In addition, the government is violating Article 27 of the Chadian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.

In light of the impact of shutdowns on citizens’ fundamental rights, the economy and society as a whole, we call on the Chadian government to #KeepItOn  and to prioritize dialogue and peaceful solutions to address current challenges in the country.


Image credit: Flickr CC BY SA

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