What happens when the internet vanishes?


As the founder of technology innovation hub IceAddis, his co-working space is usually abuzz with wide-eyed entrepreneurs fuelled on strong coffee and big dreams.

But when the internet shuts down, everything is stopped in its tracks.

Data shared with the BBC by digital rights group Access Now, shows that last year services were deliberately shut down more than 200 times in 33 separate countries.

This includes, on one occasion, in the UK.

In April 2019 the British Transport Police shut down the wi-fi on London’s Tube network during a protest by climate change activists Extinction Rebellion.

Also revealed in the report about shutdowns in 2019:

  • The internet was switched off during 65 protests in various countries around the world
  • A further 12 took place during election periods
  • The majority of all shutdowns occurred in India
  • The longest internet switch-off happened in Chad, central Africa, and lasted 15 months

In Addis Ababa, everything stops, says Markos Lemma.

“No one comes in – or when they do they don’t stay for long because without the internet, what are they going to do?

“We had a software development contract that was cancelled because we couldn’t deliver on time, because… there was internet disconnection. We’ve also [had] situations where international customers think our businesses are ignoring them, but there’s nothing we can do. “

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