The AF* organizations have called on African governments to reject the use of Internet shutdowns as a policy tool and engage in meaningful dialogue with all relevant stakeholders. The AF* organizations, comprising of African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC), African Top Level Domains Limited (AFTLD), the African Network Operators Group (AFNOG), the African Research and Education Networks (AFREN), the African Computer Emergency Response Team (Africa CERT), and the Internet Society (ISOC) Africa, made the call at the 5th African Internet Summit, in Nairobi, Kenya which held from May 21 – June 2, 2017.
Expressing their concerns over the increasing number of Internet shutdowns ordered by governments in spite of governments’ legitimate concerns related to Internet use and their obligations to national security and public order, the AF* organisations maintained that there is need for meaningful dialogue with relevant stakeholders.
Drawing attention to fact that there are negative effects of Internet shutdowns and not only do they affect freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, access to knowledge and education, etc as rights of citizens recognized both in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, they also affect businesses and entrepreneurs, adding that various studies have highlighted the high costs of Internet shutdowns on country’s GDPs.
They pointed out that in a context where economic growth relies increasingly on Internet access, as reaffirmed in the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, shutdowns can generate long-lasting and costly effects on society and on user trust.
The AF* organisations further expressed their opposition to any form of Internet shutdowns, including those that impact social media sites, entire networks, intentional disruption of Internet or mobile application services access in any context such as elections, demonstrations or social tensions as shutdowns offer very poor solutions to complex problems and have been shown to generate collateral damages on society and the economy.
These internet shutdowns are intentional disruptions of the internet or electronic communication, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a specific population or within a location for specified or unspecified periods of time. African territories accounted for many of the 56 Internet shutdowns recorded globally in 2016.