Improving Internet Access in the DRC
Internet access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been almost nonexistent for the past decade. The DRC’s internet access is 145th in the world, which is horrendous knowing the haunting past of its internet accessibilities. It was just in 2019 that the DRC lost its internet access completely amidst its election cycle. This has become a growing trend amongst several African and Asian nations, as governments are becoming more capable of shutting down electronic ways of communication and civil discourse. Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Skype have cut communication. Here is some information about internet access in the DRC.
Economic Burden of Internet Loss
The financial burden that the DRC has faced has become an eroding problem after every internet shutdown of 83 million people. NetBlocks and the Internet Society, both internet access groups, calculated these shutdowns by using an algorithm. NetBlocks is a website that has a Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST) that “estimates the economic impact of internet disruption, mobile data blackout or app restriction using indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat, and U.S. Census.” NetBlocks estimated that the DRC’s shutdown costs an economic downturn of $3 million or more. This paints a bleak picture for the people of the DRC and their government.
Cutting off internet access is one thing but to cut it off at the expense of losing capital funds is a losing feat on both ends. The Internet Society has been trying to answer the question, how can internet access be better for the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
New Approaches to Internet Access
In 2019, The Internet Society started working on launching the second Internet Exchange Point in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kojo Boakye, that Head of Public Policy for Africa, said that “This new infrastructure will help improve connectivity by lowering the cost of delivering Internet services to people in the region.”
Since then, the DRC has seen a steady increase in internet access. Mobile connectivity has increased by 1 million (3.1%) from January 2019 to January 2020. This increase still means that 60% of the DRC’s total population does not have a mobile connection via the internet. Social media accounts have increased by 680,000 (28% increase) from April 2019 to January 2020.
The Future of the Internet in Congo
With TIS and NetBlock’s help, internet access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should continue to expand as more IEP emerge. Another way of helping the Congo is by advocating for the removal of censorship laws from laws like No. 13/2002. No. 13/2002 “governs the telecommunication sector and confers powers on the government to take charge of communication facilities in the interest of national security or public defense.”
Not complying with these laws makes internet service providers like Bharti Airtel and Orange Group afraid that the country could revoke their licenses. If these laws change or the DRC puts a new one in place, internet access in the DRC should allow others to hear all voices without the government’s force.
– Grant Ritchey