Eswatini has suffered a loss of US$8million due to a deliberate five-day shutdown of internet amid political unrest.
According to the NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST) run by British inventor and rights advocate Alp Toker, the daily cost of internet shutdown was estimated at US$1 753 201.
The tool estimates the economic impact of an internet disruption, mobile data blackout or app restriction using indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat and U.S. Census.
Information provided by the data-portal indicate that in January 2021 there were about 548 100 internet users in Eswatini, an increase by 5 688 (1 per cent) from 2020’s figures.
The internet penetration was said to be at 47 per cent around the same time.
“There were 350 000 social media users in Eswatini in January 2021. The number of social media users in Eswatini increased by 90 000 (35 per cent) between 2020 and 2021,” the portal reports.
The shutdown came into effect a few days after the country experienced a wave of violent protest actions where people looted, burnt and destroyed businesses all over the country, resulting to losses estimated at US$200 million; loss of jobs and livelihoods for many employees; the arrest of hundreds of people for housebreaking and theft; the death of over 70 people and injury and amputation of over 200 people’s limbs.
Stakeholders have since taken the Eswatini government to court, arguing that the shutdown was uncalled for and it had cost them a fortune.
Apart from the over 350 000 social media users, the shutdown affected entities and departments that relied on the broader network.
These include government departments and parastatals like the Home Affairs department, the Eswatini Revenue Authority (SRA) and various financial institutions.
About three days into the shutdown it was reported that trucks transporting goods into the country were stuck at the border because of difficulties in clearing them and preparing the relevant paperwork in order to enable them to enter into Eswatini.
The internet society has not seen any evidence on the effectiveness of shutdowns on solving issues they are meant to address, especially public order.
“In fact, research has found that information blackouts resulting from Internet shutdowns can actually result in increased violence, with violent tactics that are less reliant on effective communication and coordination being substituted for non-violent protests that rely on the Internet for organisation,” the Internet Society reports.