Relief as one-week internet blackout in Ethiopia comes to an end

Internet was cut nationwide in Ethiopia on June 11.

ADDIS ABABA, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Tsegaye Teshome, a lawyer in Ethiopia's eastern Dire Dawa city, is feeling a sense of relief after an eight-day internet blackout came to an end on Tuesday evening.

Internet was cut nationwide in Ethiopia on June 11. Although internet to Ethiopia's capital city Addis Ababa was restored on Friday, most parts of Ethiopia remained offline until Tuesday evening. The Ethiopian government has yet to give an official reason for the internet blackout, but it coincided with high school national exams which started last week and ended on Tuesday.

There is speculation the internet blackout was to prevent a repeat of 2016, when high school national exams were leaked online leading to the postponement of the exams for a month and caused millions of U.S. dollars in losses to the Ethiopian government. Fearing a repeat of 2016 national high school exam leaks, Ethiopia imposed an internet blackout in 2017, a move the Ethiopian government said at the time prevented a potential widespread cheating at exams. 

Ethiopia also suspended text messaging services for a week until Tuesday, which in the past have been used to exchange exams answers among students.  Speaking to Xinhua, Teshome said the eight-day internet blackout effectively cut his regular contact with his foreign clients as well as prevented him from accessing federal court related online updates.

"I have recently opened a Wifi internet connected barber shop to give me a business edge over other barber shops in the city. With clients no longer able to access Wifi internet in my barber shop I had seen a decrease in the number of clients," Teshome told Xinhua. Fissehatsion Gebremichael, a resident of Mekelle city in northern Ethiopia, told Xinhua the internet blackout had left him unable to access online materials that can help him in his post-graduate studies. "I'm currently doing Criminal justice and Criminology post-graduate studies.

The internet blackout has left me unable to download books and research papers I need for my studies," said Gebremichael. "Since the internet blackout, the only information I got was from state sanctioned media outlets, effectively shutting me out of receiving information from alternative information sources," said Gebremichael. 

With Ethiopia having fully restored internet connection nationwide, Gebremichael and Teshome are among the estimated 16 million Ethiopians thought to use internet regularly feeling relief with the end of the internet blackout.The Ethiopian government has in recent years imposed internet blackout in parts of the country on several occasions during times of serious unrest, but this is the longest and most extensive internet blackout the east African country has endured so far.  

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