In­ter­net out­age in vi­o­lence-plagued So­ma­lia is headache for busi­nesses

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

MOGADISHU:

A sev­ered ma­rine ca­ble has left So­ma­lia with­out in­ter­net for weeks, trig­ger­ing losses for busi­nesses, res­i­dents said, and adding a layer of chaos in a coun­try where Is­lamist in­sur­gents are car­ry­ing out a cam­paign of bomb­ings and killings. Abdi An­shuur, So­ma­lia’s min­is­ter for posts and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, told state ra­dio that in­ter­net to the Horn of Africa state went down a month ago af­ter a ship cut an un­der­sea ca­ble con­nect­ing it to global data net­works.

Busi­nesses have had to close or im­pro­vise to re­main open and univer­sity stu­dents told Reuters their ed­u­ca­tional cour­ses had been dis­rupted. An­shuur said the out­age was cost­ing So­ma­lia the equiv­a­lent of about $10 mil­lion in eco­nomic out­put. “The night in­ter­net went off marked the end of my daily bread,” Mo­hamed Nur, 22, said in the cap­i­tal Mogadishu.

Nur said he now begged “tea and cig­a­rettes from friends” af­ter the in­ter­net cut­off also sev­ered his monthly in­come of $500 that he took in from ads he de­vel­oped and placed on the video web­site, YouTube. So­ma­lia’s econ­omy is still pick­ing up slowly af­ter a com­bined force of the army and an African Union peace­keep­ing force helped drive the Is­lamist group, al Shabaab, out of Mogadishu and other strongholds.

Al Shabaab wants to top­ple the western backed gov­ern­ment and rule ac­cord­ing to its strict in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lamic sharia law. The group re­mains for­mi­da­ble and lethal, with its cam­paign of fre­quent bomb­ings and killings a key source of sig­nif­i­cant se­cu­rity risk for most busi­nesses and reg­u­lar life. Now the in­ter­net out­age po­ten­tially com­pounds the hard­ships for most firms. Most young peo­ple who say they are un­able to work be­cause of the out­age spend hours idling in front of tea shops.

Mo­hamed Ahmed Hared, com­mer­cial man­ager of So­mali Op­ti­cal Net­works(SOON), a large in­ter­net ser­vice provider in the coun­try, told Reuters his busi­ness was los­ing over a mil­lion dol­lars a day. Hared’s clients, he said, had re­ported a range of crip­pled ser­vices in­clud­ing pass­port and e-tick­ets print­ing and money re­mit­tances. Some stu­dents and staff at the Univer­sity of So­ma­lia in Mogadishu told Reuters their learn­ing had been dis­rupted be­cause google, which they heav­ily rely on for re­search, was now in­ac­ces­si­ble.

The ab­sence of es­pe­cially pop­u­lar in­ter­net sites like Face­book and YouTube and Google was, how­ever, cause for cel­e­bra­tion for some in the con­ser­va­tive, Mus­lim na­tion. “My wife used to be (on) YouTube or Face­book ev­ery minute,” Mo­hamud Os­man, 45, said, adding the on­line ac­tiv­ity would some­times dis­tract her from feed­ing her baby and that the habit had once forced him to try to get a di­vorce. “Now I am happy ... in­ter­net is with­out doubt a nec­es­sary tool of evil.” —Reuters

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