This African Country has been Offline for a Year

Salim Azim Assani, who lives in Chad, is finding out the hard way after living under internet censorship for more than 365 days and counting. Assani, 33, runs WenakLabs, a digital co-working space in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena and has resorted to using expensive Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to circumvent the shutdown. A VPN acts as a secure tunnel between devices and the internet; it protects users from snooping and censorship and allows them to mask their location on the internet. The social media blackout began in March 2018 after recommended reforms to the constitution that would allow President Idriss Deby to stay in power until 2033, when he will be 81. The country’s internet services were shut down almost immediately after the planned reforms were announced. Internet shutdowns in 10 sub-Saharan African countries led to a deficit of more than $235 million from 2015 to 2017, according to a Collaboration of International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) report. Economists estimate the shutdown has cost the Chadian economy at least $20 million since it began last March, and Assani, of WenakLabs, has been feeling the real-life impact.


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