African governments are known to shut down the internet when faced by protests, elections, or even national examinations. In the last few years, internet shutdown has been experienced in Zimbabwe, Cameroon, DRC, Somalia, Ethiopia and several other countries. Here in Kenya, the question of whether there would be an internet shutdown during the 2017 general elections was very much rife, but that never came to be. But the question still lingers, will the government shut down the internet one day?
One can never be sure if the government will one day shut down the internet, and governments have interests, not policies. If the government’s interests are threatened, we can expect any action to be taken. However, there would be many implications. Kenya is a country with a high internet penetration rate, and we have many services that rely on the internet to function. First, the shutdown can be total or partial. Total shutdown involves blocking all internet services, while partial internet shutdown is where parts of the internet or certain applications are restricted.
Whether a total or partial shutdown, the following would be the implications on Kenyans.
While it would be possible to use most of the public transport, some parts of public transport would be paralyzed. This include popular taxi hailing apps like Uber, Bolt, Little and others. Thousands of drivers would be rendered jobless, while the people who rely on them would be stranded since they would be unable to contact them.
Many public bus and air travel bookings happen online. This would not work
Many startups in Kenya are internet oriented. Most of them would have nothing to offer without the digital technologies that they very much depend on. Most of incubation hubs in Nairobi would grind to a halt.
Kenyans are very dependent on e-commerce services, which would be affected in terms of sales and also logistics part. Jumia and Kilimall receive orders online, and also depend on the internet to have their delivery people get to the right destinations
- Online payments
This is where it gets murky. Card check out require an internet connection. Even M-PESA payment need an internet connection for those automated payments to work. Even check out at the supermarket using M-PESA might be impossible without internet.
E-learning would be disrupted. Educational institutions largely depend on cloud hosted systems to monitor transport, progress and plan activities.
- Logistics and supplies
Most organized forms of supply chain networks and logistics systems depend on the internet. Manufacturers would find it hard to keep goods and services flowing in the market in the right quantities and at the right time.
- Utility payments
Utility payments depend on automated systems to generate invoices and effect payments. You might find yourself unable to pay for water and electricity.
Tourism is a major foreign exchange source in Kenya. Most of tourism activities such as accommodation booking and travels depend on the internet. The industry would suffer greatly.
It seems like an internet shutdown in Kenya would almost cripple the economy. What else would be affected? Share your thoughts.