Would Kenya survive a mobile phone and Internet shutdown?
Posted Thursday, February 3 2011 at 00:00
Analysts estimate that Kenya could lose up to Sh5 billion daily basis should it undergo a technology blackout similar to the one currently under way in Egypt.
The North African country last week moved to cut off all Internet and some mobile services in the wake of increased protests by its citizens against President Hosni Mubarak’s government.
“The Egyptian government’s actions have essentially wiped their country from the global map. This is an action unprecedented in Internet history,” said James Cowie, an analyst with Renesys, an Internet networking firm.
In Egypt, the government ordered Internet service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet, cutting off critical links between the country and its international neighbours, shutting off businesses, schools, government offices and embassy from outside contact.
The shut down involved the withdrawal of more than 3,500 Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routes by Egyptian ISPs, according to Renesys.
By early this week, just one ISP out of 10, Noor Data Networks, appeared largely unaffected.
Noor escaped due to its unique connection to the outside world via an undersea cable operated by Telecom Italia, but by Wednesday, the Noor network had been shut off as well.
According to BGPMon, another networking firm, 88 per cent of Egyptian Internet access was successfully shut down.
Kenyan Internet experts say a similar scenario would be devastating to the local economy given the heavy prominence that the country now places on the mobile and communications systems as a means of facilitating business
“If outages are sustained, the economic and business impacts are likely to be amplified beyond what is repairable. Following the disruptions in Kenya in 2007, it took us two years to recover,” said Michuki Mwangi, an internet analyst.
Shutting down mobile networks in Kenya would freeze the movement of over Sh1 billion a day through mobile money transfers, halting the transfer of funds between urban and rural areas.
A corresponding shut-down of Internet links in the country would impact most on businesses who use the connections to connect various departments located across the country.
“Shutting down the Kenya Internet Exchange Point (KIXP) would not only result in local Internet communication disruption, but lost revenues for the Government. In 2007, KRA indicated that they collected over Sh500 million daily using the Simba System, which is connected to the KIXP,” said Mr Mwangi.
Most analysts agree that the financial sector, which leans heavily on data links to link ATM machines, would be hardest hit, with companies with regional presence also counting their losses.
Would it be possible to shut down Kenya’s telecommunications sector?