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Internet blackout may have cost Uganda US$9m

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Uganda , 19 Jan 2021

While authorities in Uganda have restored internet connectivity five days after it was shut down across the country ahead of the general elections, digital rights organisation NetBlocks estimates the cost of the downtime to digital services (including mobile money) could be in the region of US$9-million.

The internet was restored 18 January after President Yoweri Museveni was declared winner in the polls, an outcome disputed by Museveni’s main opponent Bobi Wine who claims the process was rigged.

Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo announced that the unprecedented internet shutdown imposed on 13 January, reportedly for alleged national security reasons, had been lifted, but warned of further shutdowns should there be protests.

Opondo said social media platforms were still under review and that a decision would soon be made to restore them depending on the security situation.

“We are waiting to see what happens now that internet connectivity has been restored. But we advise internet users, especially those from the opposition, not to use it to promote hate messages and intimidation,” Opondo said.

Millions of internet users had been unable to send e-mails and use social media platforms.

Museveni accused social media platforms of being biased and arrogant.

He was angered by Facebook’s decision to remove accounts linked to the ruling party after its investigations found that they had been involved in a coordinated operation to maliciously target opposition members.

NetBlocks, a digital rights organisation that tracks internet shutdowns, said network data showed a rise in connectivity in the country to 37%, but that core infrastructure, regulatory and government were still switched off.

Alph Toker, CEO of NetBlocks was quoted by AFP news agency saying, “This suggests that Uganda’s election shutdown or at least the procedure under which it was implemented, was planned sometime in advance. This has been one of the more orderly nation-scale network blackouts we’ve tracked.”

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