Social media network, Facebook and Instagram and instant messaging tool, WhatsApp has been down since 5 pm on Monday, disconnecting millions of people who rely on the services for communication.
The cause of the outage, which had been going on until past 10 pm on Monday is unknown. The outage is global, with no explanation as to what happened.
“We’re aware that some people are experiencing issues with WhatsApp at the moment. We’re working to get things back to normal and will send an update here as soon as possible,” Facebook, the proprietors of WhatsApp said.
Internet users have since started migrating to platforms like Twitter, Signal and Telegram to continue communicating. This outage highlights a plethora of critical issues that stakeholders in the internet governance landscape should prioritise:
Internet access is a basic necessity
Following the outages on Facebook, it is clear that in the digital age, internet access is a basic necessity for both socio-economic rights and civil and political rights. The internet is critical for communication and also for business while citizens in countries like the Gambia that are building up to Presidential elections also need access to the platforms for voter education, political campaigns and mobilisation of the electorate. Digital rights are therefore critical and should be prioritised.
A culture of cybersecurity is key
While there has not been any official communication on the specific cause of the outage, it is clear that tech companies, players in the telecommunications industry, governments and also internet users should develop a culture of cybersecurity. It is critical to put mechanisms in place, including policies and laws that are aimed at protecting networks, critical infrastructure, devices and generally safe spaces online.
A need to promote innovation in Africa
It is also critical that African countries develop and entrench policies and regulatory frameworks that promote innovation and the establishment of tech startups in their countries. This will also go a long way in providing diverse and alternative platforms, promoting competitive service providers and competitive pricing for internet access and affordability and broadly exercising digital rights in Africa.
The cost of internet shutdowns
According to the Netblocks Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST) which estimates the impact of an internet disruption, mobile data blackout or app restriction, globally, the shutdown of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp has so far, resulted in a total cost impact of USD$161,422, 838 in the space of over an hour.
This serves as a clear indicator of the negative impact of internet shutdowns on economies, serving further as an indicator that internet shutdowns are highly disruptive and should not be implemented.
Source: MISA Zimbabwe