The Impact Of Zimbabwe Internet Blackout
With the Zimbabwean government ordering the total shutdown of internet in the country starting 15 January 2019, great losses have been incurred. This step was embarked on by the government in the bid to stop demonstrations which were due to high and unrealistic fuel prices and the on-going social unrest in country.
Telecommunication companies such as Econet Wireless, Telecel and Netone among others suffered a great loss as the market could not access the purchase of data bundles. This has affected approximately 17 million people thus making Zimbabwe the second country with major internet shutdown after DRC.
Internet was later partially restored but with social media blocked that’s Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter. According to the UN Security council, under the international law, internet blackout cannot be justified no matter what. This surely was an abuse of the right to expression as people could not interact with the other parts of the world. Families could not check with their beloved ones in other parts of the country as the free flow of information was disrupted. Confusion was upheaved at its best and this exacerbated more demonstrations.
The internet blackout led to the freezing of electronic systems while people wanted to make transactions either in supermarkets or banks. Business websites could not be updated. Banks cards could not swipe, people shifted to the traditional bank transfer method as internet banking was done and utilities such as ZESA could not be paid online. Most families had to stay in the dark without electricity. ZIMRA officials revealed that they could not process payments on time thus they experienced huge loss due to the use of manual and out-dated systems. Surely, Zimbabwe internet shutdown hugely affected all sectors nationwide.
According to the UN Security Council, internet shutdown cannot be justified under the international law thus this is highly regarded as human rights abuse. Zimbabwean citizens resorted to the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access social media and avoid censorship. However, the government added petrol to an already burning fire since this measure of internet shutdown had an impact on the economy that is already crippled. Net Block estimated that this 6 day shutdown costed more than 18million dollars, cost of living got more expensive, emergency and medical services delayed. This phase was hard and full of confusion. To date, supermarkets, banks and all other sectors are trying to cover up and rectify all the losses incurred during the internet blackout period.