Days after pledging to expand internet, Ethiopia’s govt shuts it off

Days after Ethiopian ICT officials made public pledges to
improve net access, the government began playing on-again,
off-again with the internet—shutting it down (almost completely)
to coincide with the country’s national exams.

Data provided to TechCrunch from Oracle’s Internet
Intelligence
confirmed intermittent net blackouts from June 11
to 14, with connectivity returning for brief periods during that
time-span.

Sources on the ground, including in the country’s tech
community, confirmed to TechCrunch internet stoppage over the
period.

Mobile and IP connectivity in Ethiopia is managed by state owned
Ethio Telecom, though
the governmentled by newly elected Prime
Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Sahle-Work Zewde—has committed
to break up the telecom and privatize it.

On the reason for the outage, the government of Ethiopia has not
issued a statement and a government official in charge of ICT
policy did not respond to a TechCrunch inquiry.


Press reports
, and a source speaking to TechCrunch on
background, said Ethiopia’s internet stoppage was done to stop
students from cheating on national exams, which took place this
week.

Earlier this week I attended Ethiopia’s ICT Expo and first
Startup Ethiopia event, moderating and sitting on panels with
Ethiopian government representatives to discuss the country’s
startup community and internet landscape. Several officials, such
as State Minister of Innovation and Technology Jemal Beker, named
specific commitments to improve the country’s internet quality,
access, and choice within the next year.

Ethiopia took policy steps in that direction,
announcing steps
  this week to issue individual telco licences
by the end of 2019.

The East African nation of 100 million with the continent’s
seventh largest economy is bidding to become Africa’s next
startup hub.

Ethiopia has a budding tech scene, but lags the continent’s
tech standouts—like Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa—that have
become focal-points for startup formation, exits, and VC.

Still, startups such as local ride-hail ventures Ride and ZayRide have started to gain
traction (Uber has not yet entered Ethiopia). This week’s Startup
Ethiopia event also showcased high-potential early-stage ventures
such payment company YenaPay  and agtech, e-commerce
startup Deamat.

One thing discussed at Startup Ethiopia was the need for
startups—most of which operate on mobile platforms—to have
consistent, affordable, and accessible internet to drive forward
business models.

Ethiopia is taking steps and making statements in that
direction, but this week’s net stoppage shows there are still
hurdles and disconnects.

One of those is the country’s government pursuing an internet
shutdown just days after attempting to convince investors, angel
networks, and a global tech audience it’s serious about making
Ethiopia an African startup hub.

 

Source: FS – All Tech News 2
Days after pledging to expand internet, Ethiopia’s govt shuts it off