A curtain has unceremoniously descended over the online landscape in an increasingly digitised Ethiopia. Four relentless months have passed since the federal government imposed a policy to curtail access to social media sites like Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Telegram. This unpopular move has sent shockwaves through the country, reshaping its digital topography and casting a long shadow over its flourishing e-commerce sector and nascent digital economy.

The policy, shrouded in mystery, began to bear unintended consequences. Whilst there is an admission of restrictions, there is a notable silence over who should assume responsibility. The authorities at Ethiopia's Communications Authority deny culpability; those at the Ministry of Innovation & Technology sidestep blame; and the likely culprits, officials in charge of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), remain tight-lipped. Amidst the finger-pointing, a nightmare of dwindling site traffic and vanishing clients has taken hold for several businesses.

However, a rich narrative of adaptation and survival unfolds beneath the disruption. The use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) has triggered new dynamics in the world of digital marketing, sparking innovative approaches to reach intended audiences. Amid the ashes of Ethiopia's freely accessible internet, the battle for the country's digital future is being waged.

A shadow economy has sprung up in the wake of the restrictions, with VPNs taking centre stage. By rerouting server locations to proxies in other countries, these VPNs offer a vital lifeline to blocked websites. However, this digital sleight of hand is far from a panacea, with certain companies being caught in the crossfire. Some, like Benetsa Marketing & Communications Agency, have weathered the storm; others, such as Guzo Technologies and Store251, face a far less certain future.

You can read the full story    here    

PUBLISHED ON Jun 03,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1205]

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