Retrogressive laws inhibiting Ethiopian Internet penetration

In the last one decade, Ethiopia has experienced the least Internet growth in Africa, statistics from Internetworldstats.com shows.


Between 2000 and 2012, the country’s Web penetration relative to the population grew by a mere 1.1 percent, with merely 960,000 people out of the entire population of 87.3 million having access to the Net.

This is far below its neighbours Kenya, which grew by 28 percent, Sudan by 19 percent, and Djibouti by 7.9 percent and Eritrea by 6.2 percent.

Ethiopia’s Internet growth is however comparable to the 1.2 percent of the war ravaged Somalia, which has not actively invested in ICT infrastructure in last two decades.  

According to some experts, who advocate for free speech and access to data, Ethiopian government’s move to instill some restrictions on the use of the Internet is seen as inhibitive to the fast growth of Internet.

Just this year, the government criminalized the use of internet based voice communication. In its defense, the it pointed at emerging security issues in the world although many have argued that the restrictions are mainly motivated by the need for more surveillance by government even as  the social media has been used to cause havoc in Arab countries.

The particular inhibition of the use of Skype has also been viewed as a desperate measure to curb on free speech, as VoIP makes it hard for the government to monitor information since traffic is protected.

However, this is not the first attempt by government to reign in on access to information as the government has already clamped down on all Amharic news distributing websites in the horn of African country.

And although the move has seen more calls go through the government-owned Ethio-telecom network provider, which is believed to be highly infiltrated by countries intelligence network, the move can also be attributed to the moderate economic growth given the correlation of access to broadband to economic growth.

As a result of the restrictions, Ethiopia controls only 0.1 percent of the Internet usages in Africa, despite having a sizeable population double that of the neighboring Kenya which controls 7.2 percent.

Posted in: Internet

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