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Africa's cloud providers bemoan internet shutdowns

Africa , 03 Feb 2017

Africa's cloud providers bemoan internet shutdowns

Recurring incidents of internet shutdowns in Africa, most recently in Cameroon, has ICT experts worried. They believe this is impacting negatively on businesses that have adopted cloud services and could reverse the gains made on the continent.

Speaking at the NexTech Africa Microsoft Event in Nairobi, Kenya, Nic Rudnick, CEO of Liquid Telecom said that the move is counterproductive for cloud service providers.

"Some of the countries where we operate in, we've had that. But there's not a lot as an operator you can do when the government or the regulator says you need to turn it off," Rudnick said.

"With that said there are people's constitutional rights. Access to telecommunications or a communications network is now more and more being recognised as a fundamental human right. Freedom of speech is no longer about the right to stand up and say what you wish, it is more (about) having the ability and the network to do so over social media," he added.

Rudnick says that there are more global policies in place that classify access to internet as a right and this might deter governments from arbitrarily shutting down the internet.

According to Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) the United Nations Human Rights Council spoke against internet shut down.

"In its 32nd Session, in July 2016, the Council passed by consensus a resolution on freedom of expression and the internet with operative language on internet shutdowns," CIPESA said in a strongly worded statement to Cameroon.

"At the end of the day if a network provider is asked to turn off the network it does impact businesses," said Chris Lwanga, Principal PM Manager, PACE at Microsoft. "Even if it's a private cloud giving solutions to a local market beyond the corporation's network."

If it is necessary for the governments to shut down networks, it should be done in a way that does not impact businesses, said Lwanga.

According to a study by Brookings Institute global cases of internet shutdowns drained US$2.4 billion from the world economy in 2016.

Cameroon joins a host of African countries who have blocked internet access in the past including Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville, Chad, Gabon, Egypt, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Niger and Democratic Republic of Congo.

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