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Ethiopia, one of the fastest growing economies in the world is in an Internet black out. As I write this, it has been three and a half days since there has been a connection and there is no indication on when exactly it will come back. There are some very embarrassing things about this situation for both for us, the people and the government. First of all, this happened without any warning and we are still waiting for an explanation. From the government’s side, there seems to be no inclination to explain what happened; is it a technical problem? Or is it about the national examinations that are taking place and the desire to not have students to become “distracted”?
If this is about a serious technical problem that is beyond anyone’s control, then there is little that can be done except trying to fix the problem in due time. Saying that though, what can be done is to give people updates on what the problem is, how long it will take to fix and most of all apologize for the inconveniences that have been caused because there are huge consequences for what is happening.
Some data showed that, last year when the Internet went out for a couple of days, businesses lost USD 19 million, at least. For those that could afford it, some decided to camp out in Kenya, a whole different country, because they could not run their businesses or do their jobs in Ethiopia due to the lack of connectivity.
For the majority, especially small and medium businesses that depend on social media such as facebook which till this day remains blocked, the losses were devastating. Yes, if we didn’t know by now, social media platforms have been for a while, a major tool for digital marketing.
These platforms have enabled small businesses to excel because they provide a unique opportunity to promote their products and services in a very cost effective way. This means everything for the survival of these businesses, especially in a country where getting loans is next to impossible and businesses need all the help they can get.
To be fair, I don’t think the consequence of an Internet blackout is lost on the government. The question is, does the government care? When there is no warning, when there is no explanation, when what is going on doesn’t make it on the 8 o’clock news on the state owned TV channel and publications, when no official from Ethio telecom or other levels of government gives any kind of statement, it all clearly shows that the government does not care.
Last year it was said that the reason for the Internet outage was to let students sit in the national examination without “distractions”. Which really is a silly reason to begin with but everyone accepted it especially because the national exam questions were leaked out and were circulating on the Internet. It all somehow made it seem like it made sense even though really, it didn’t.
Although it hasn’t been stated officially, some are saying it is for the same reason that we don’t have Internet this time around; not to “distract” students.
If this is really the reason, then our education system is in deeper shit than we thought because it is producing thousands of students that for the life of them can’t focus on their studies and exams and would just throw away their future because they are distracted by social media. I mean these are not small children we are talking about; these are 10th and 12th grade students.
At this stage in their lives, if students are not capable of making the right decisions, then their teachers have failed them, their schools have failed them, the education system has failed them, and the government has failed them.
If shutting down the Internet is what it’s going to take so that students will actually perform well on their examination, meanwhile compromising economic performance and meddling with people’s livelihoods, then I would think it means this country is in a very unhealthy state, we are going backwards.
The government spends billions of dollars in investment on infrastructure; it builds roads, expands electricity, and works on large scale projects such as dams, industry parks and so on. This has undeniably contributed to the economic growth and the increased foreign investment that is coming in.
On the other hand, it is no wonder that we are among the bottom when it comes to human development. The government doesn’t focus on people; people’s development. The biggest resource this country has is its people, but people become resources only with the right investment.
Invest in education; invest in the people that will build your roads and dams, invest in students that will literally be running the country in the future, invest in producing well rounded youth who can think properly; invest in that infrastructure. Maybe then we don’t have to resort to an absolute idiotic measure of ruining people’s businesses and jobs as well as jeopardizing our economy once a year when our students sit for their national examsg