Another Ethiopian Internet Shutdown During National Exams

Ethiopian Internet users woke up to no connectivity, thanks in part to the grade 10 national examinations.

Attempts to reach Internet users in Ethiopia on VOIP calls failed (Viber was used in this case, being the most popular service in Ethiopia) but International calls on GSM were successful. Residents confirmed the Internet disruption, apparently occasioned by rumors of a pending exam leakage.

Data from various open sources on Internet traffic do indeed confirm this. Google’s Traffic Transparency Report indicates a drop in traffic since 10:05HRS (Ethiopian time) or 13:05PM (UTC time).

Google’s transparency report on traffic showing a drop in normal traffic to one of its most popular tools, google search. Source: GoogleTransparencyReport/traffic

RipeAtlas too shows a drop in traffic:

RIPEAtlas country routing statistics showing a drop as reported by Internet users in Ethiopia.

This is not the first time Ethiopia is pulling this exam =/= Internet trick. In July 2016, at the height of political protests, #OromoProtesters and journalists pulled off an innovative civil disobedience act by leaking the national exams on Facebook. Their argument was that despite asking for the postponement of the national exam due to the many months students in protests areas had missed classes, their pleas were ignored. When the new exam was administered, the government shutdown the Internet across the country to avoid such a situation.

In their defense, the Oromo activists claimed their end was not to help the Oromia students only. They would have done that without broadcasting it on Facebook. Rather, they wanted to nullify the said exam and force a postponement.
This action, and the ensuing Ireecha Massacre and 5 days of rage, were critical in the eventual ‘6 months State of Emergency’ beginning October 2016 and extended in April 2017 for another 4 months.
The political and social settings of Internet shutdowns are as important in explaining motives and seeking solutions to the pandemic spreading across the region.
For now, the Horn of Africa country will go without Internet for a few days at the minimum, possibly Friday evening (2 June 2017) when the exams are scheduled to end.

 

 

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