Since January 17, 2017, populations residing in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon are totally deprived of the Internet. The cut of access to international bandwidth took place in these two regions, where demonstrations haven been raging since November 2016.
Although no official reason has been given to date, Internet Sans Frontières received confirmation that the main telecommunications operators have been ordered by the government to cut access in two “precise locations in Cameroon” due to Alleged threats to national security.
In an open letter to the President of the Republic of Cameroon, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and the Minister of Communication, civil society organizations, including Internet Sans Frontières, Access Now, The World Wide Foundation, Or Pen International are calling on the Cameroonian Government to respect its international commitments and to restore Internet connection on the whole national territory. The Global Network Initiative, which brings together digital companies, telecommunications operators, civil society and academia, to protect freedom of expression and privacy online, said in a statement that it is concerned by restrictions on access to Internet ordered by the Government.
Violation of Human Rights
In their open letter, the organizations remind that the UN condemns the voluntary interruption of Internet access, such practices violate fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in UN texts, in particular freedom of expression. Moreover, by cutting off the flow of information, attacks on the physical integrity of citizens, or arbitrary arrests, become possible without fear of external scrutiny.
In Cameroon, since the Internet shutdown, lawyers, judges at the Supreme Court, demonstrators are arrested and brought before the military court, accused of terrorism. Cameroon, at war against Boko Haram, has adopted an anti-terrorist law, which some civil society organizations and opposition political parties fear may be used to silence political dissent.
Significant economic consequences
The Internet shutdown affecting Anglophone regions of Cameroon also has economic consequences: banks and money transfer agencies, which are closed, entrepreneurs who are blocked, a significant part of the economic activity has been slowed down and even stopped for 15 days.
More worryingly, the capital of South-West Cameroon is Buéa, Silicon Mountain, where many SMEs developed thanks to the digital, and contribute greatly to the development of a digital economy, called for by the President of the Republic Paul Biya, in his message to the youth of February 11, 2016.
Ordering the shutdown of the Internet prevents the development of this digital economy, and impacts the national economy.
Conscious of this major challenge, public and private organizations have developed methodologies to calculate the cost of voluntary Internet shutdowns. In December 2016, Internet Sans Frontières calculated the cost of cutting access to social media for six months in Chad (fr), based on the calculation method proposed by the Brookings Institution.
In Cameroon, with the help of Access Now, we estimated the cost of the Internet shutdown since 17 January 2017 in the North-West and South-West regions, using the methodology proposed by the Global Network Initiative and Deloitte, which relies in particular on the impact of bandwidth usage and the speed of the latter on the economy of a country.
In its report, page 6, Deloitte specifies that: