Monday, 5 December 2016
From the Editor-at-Large
The Gambia is a small country, by any measure. It is the smallest country in mainland Africa, and it has a population of 1.85 million, about the same as the City of Harare. It is a tiny strip of land on the Gambia River, almost entirely surrounded by Senegal, with 80 kilometers of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, or about one-sixteenth the distance between Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The country has had two presidents since its independence, meaning that the elections held late last week drew some interest from observers. Something else that did gain international interest was the fact that the internet was switched off for the duration of the election period, meaning that The Gambia joined a small but growing club of states which have blocked internet access for one reason or another, which includes Uganda, the Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.
Internet access was lost in the morning of 1 December - election day, and services such as international text messages, international calls, and VoIP access were unavailable during the voting period.
The internet is an increasingly important tool during elections. Services such as Ushahidi allow people to report irregularities, and social media plays a key role in keeping voters informed even as they stand in line waiting for their turn to cast their ballot. The trend of cutting off access points to a larger strategy - keep people in the dark, contain the reach of any stories that could potentially cause chaos, and make sure that any potential 'trouble' is kept at bay.
These shutdowns do cost money, and as we have previously discussed, the cost implication is not one that a government can simply shrug off - Ethiopia reportedly lost half a million US dollars a day in its latest internet shutdown following civil unrest.
There was a glimmer of hope as Gambia did eventually come back online. Following the confirmation of results, incumbent president Yahya Jammeh conceded to his main opponent, Adama Barro.
The trend of cutting off internet access has so far been carried out in countries with a strongman as head of state, but it seems the people in countries ranked higher up in terms of democracy and governance are worried, and rightly so. The people of Ghana go to the polls later this week, and Kenya's next general election is in August next year, and discussions around these two elections in particular are revolving around the likelihood that internet access will be restricted or cut off completely.
It is a cause of concern whenever any government considers the nuclear option - cutting off internet access in the name of 'security'. It is a direct violation of the freedom of speech. It's also messy - the likelihood of backlash is significant, and it is unlikely that such a violation will be quickly forgotten.
Talk to us. Has your government ever cut off internet access for whatever reason? Is the need to maintain order bigger than the right to internet access? Email us at [email protected]
By Tefo Mohapi
This Internet shut down in Gambia on election day adds the country to a list of Afrikan countries who have in recent years on or before elections have fully or partially blocked internet access and mobile communications, which includes Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda to name a few.
This is not a complete surprise as there have been rumours and suspiscion circulating in Gambia that incumbent president Yahya Jammeh could possibly be considering disabling communications on or before the elections
Kenya's Online Freedoms Are Increasingly Coming Under Threat, The State of the Internet 2016 Report Shows
By iAfrikan News
While online freedom of expression in Kenya is quite robust, the space is increasingly drawing the attention of authorities seeking to introduce regulations, even as media and entertainment content continue to transition to online-first distribution models. These are some of the observations made in the State of the Internet in Kenya 2016report, the second such report launched by the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) to map out the Internet landscape in Kenya.
Today's Technology Innovation Hubs Are Simply An Evolved Way Of Privatizing And Cashing On Societal Failures
By Koketso Moeti
Startup success stories form an integral part of the origin story of modern startup culture – a culture that is often sold using the stories of individuals who quit something solid to ‘chase their ambitions’, ‘work in a space that values initiative’ and where ‘the quick adoption of ideas’ is nurtured.
Of course, this culture needed spaces that embody this, leading to the establishment of Silicon Valley-inspired innovation hubs. These hubs represent a communal organisational form for supporting entrepreneurs, mainly working in the tech space where they can draw on the knowledge of others and self-organise to enable innovation, which is often conflated with invention.
There's A Disconnect Between Research And Technology, And This Is Undermining Our Attempts At Innovation
By Evangeline Chao
There is an apparent disconnect between Kenyan academic institutions, which should ideally be the sources and inspiration of research, and the tech ecosystem. It is difficult for universities to inspire any innovation while our students are seeking ‘research services’ from publicly-advertised vendors.
What's worse is that most of our universities do not have measures to curb or detect plagiarism and unoriginal work. If they did, then these ‘research services’ would have run out of business a long time ago. Instead, they are thriving, complete with business cards openly distributed to students and faculty. Kenyan universities do hardly any research – who has the time? It is a small wonder that the World Bank raised concern on the quality of Kenyan graduates.
By iAfrikan News
Jeremy Riro is a strategy consultant and investment analyst, whose firm Fie-Consult, is supporting entrepreneurs to create sustainable solutions and overcome the various challenges they face across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Jeremy describes himself as a Village Boy who found the light through education, and he is now using it to illuminate communities across Sub-Saharan Africa through entrepreneurship development.
Fie-Consult is tapping into the entrepreneurship development ecosystem across Sub-Saharan Africa, developing and implementing innovative growth strategies, so that the enterprises they work with can grow within the evolving business ecosystems they operate in.