As the world advances in technology, there are some areas that are still struggling to catch up. During this time of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is important to receive regular updates both online and offline, but studies have shown that internet shutdowns have left people in the dark for months, and in other places, years. While work and studies are being brought online, people with no access to the internet and communication platforms have no means to catch up with the news, their work and their education. They are cut off from each other, therefore becoming more isolated from the world.
In 2019 Access Now documented at least 213 incidents of internet shutdowns around the world, in more than 33 countries. India tops the list globally, of countries that have shut down the internet, with a staggering 121 incidents of shutdowns in an evident attempt to stifle dissenting voices. Democratic countries, those under authoritarian regimes, and countries in transition have all disrupted internet connections for months at a time.
Africa has not been left behind. Countries such as Benin, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Gabon, Chad and Liberia have been hotspots for internet shutdowns in recent years. For example, in Chad, access to social media platforms such as YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for 472days between 2018 and 2019. The government justified this saying that it was for security reasons.
There are many stories just like this all around the world. In refugee camps in Bangladesh for instance, people are barred from using sim cards and shutdowns have lasted for more than 168 days. Venezuela also reported 12 shutdowns, while Yemen, Iraq, Algeria and Ethiopia reported 11, 8, 6 and 4 shutdowns respectively.
To help spread the word against internet shutdowns, we, the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE), have joined other organizations in the #KeepItOn campaign in an effort to unite and organize the global effort to end internet shutdowns. The coalition is growing rapidly, and so far, 210 organizations from 75 countries around the world, ranging from research centres to rights and advocacy groups, detection networks, foundations, and media organizations, have joined the movement.
The movement received a great boost after Access Now partnered with Twitter to launch the #Keepiton Twemoji, to raise awareness among the public on the issue of access to information and internet shutdowns. Internet shutdowns are not only a violation of people’s fundamental rights to access to information, but also disrupt people’s day to day lives.