Internet Censorship in Ethiopia. Why Is There Only One Internet Provider in the Country?

Countries Mar 16, 2021

The last few years have been marked not only with the rapid development of the Internet even in those regions of the planet that have troubles with mobile connection, but also with strict Internet censorship.

Many officials have adopted Internet censorship tools, including banning sites and services, viewing messages from users of email and chat services, DPI packet filtering, and much more. Journalists of well-known and not so well-known media outlets write about various censorship tools used in China, North Korea, Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and other countries. There is Internet censorship even in Africa. Today, we will talk about how things are going in Ethiopia.

Internet usage in Ethiopia

Nowadays, the Internet penetration rate in Ethiopia is only 15.4%. There is such a low percentage of coverage in the country because Ethiopia has a predominantly rural population, and people do not see the need for such a thing as the Internet. And of course, it is significantly influenced by the fact that the government refuses to allow any privatization of the telecommunications market.

The state-owned Ethio Telecom (formerly Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC)) is the only Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the country. Ethio Telecom is sold at very high prices, making it difficult for private users to buy.

Internet cafes and Internet access

If you decide to become a blogger or online journalist in Ethiopia, you need to know that Internet cafes are the primary source of Internet access in urban areas. Only three-quarters of the country's Internet cafes are located in the capital, Addis Ababa, and even there, the Internet connection is often slow and unreliable. The average connection speed is 5 kbps, and Internet services in most cafes are unavailable 20% of the time.

How does the Ethiopian government monitor its Internet users?

The Ethiopian government actively monitors Internet users within the country. It is not for nothing that Ethiopia ranks among the top ten countries that own the FinFisher commercial spyware package. The severity of Internet censorship in Ethiopia reached the point when the Ethiopian Telecommunications Agency demanded lists with the names and addresses of customers from the owners of the Internet cafes in order to track whether the guests of the Internet cafes were engaged in illegal or subversive activities on the Internet. If the Internet cafe owner refused to transfer customer data to the authorities, they were threatened with jail.

Ethiopian security and intelligence agencies can use Internet surveillance capabilities to access files and activities on a target's computer, log keystrokes and passwords, and remotely activate the device's microphone and webcam.

Ethiopia has had extreme internet censorship for a long time. The country's new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has somewhat lowered the degree of censorship.

What causes Internet outages in Ethiopia?

However, it is a widespread practice to shut down the Internet in Ethiopia when there is unrest among citizens. For example, last year, there was no Internet for a week, so a group of lawyers filed a lawsuit against the country's only Internet provider. There was no Internet in mid-June, and problems in the regions are still observed. The country's authorities also decided to disable Internet access during the national final exams. Ethiopians have experienced massive internet outages on several occasions. In fact, if there is only one Internet provider in the country, it is not that difficult to do this.