Internet connection has been restored to a part of Ethiopia’s Oromia region after the area had been without connectivity for almost three months.
Advocacy group Human Rights Watch had reported that internet shutdowns have been experienced in the Oromia area since January 3, 2020, where authorities had disconnected mobile phone networks, landline and the internet. Residents also reported that social media services were blocked, with text and cell service available only in major towns.
The group was worried that millions in Ethiopia could be under serious health risks because of the lack of basic information. Many Ethiopians, especially in Western Oromia, had been living under a government-imposed internet and phone services shutdowns. This had prevented families from communicating and contributed to an information blackout at a time where access to information is literally saving lives. They, therefore, called on the Ethiopian government to immediately lift the shutdown of internet and phone communications in the Oromia region.
Their efforts bore fruits as the President of the Oromia region Mr Shimelis Abdisa said that the internet would be restored because of the improved security situation in the region. On 2nd April, state-run Fana Broadcasting Corporate confirmed that connectivity had returned.
#Ethiopia: Internet has been restored in west #Oromia zones pic.twitter.com/GxSxLFkdX9
— FBC (Fana Broadcasting Corporate S.C.) (@fanatelevision) March 31, 2020
The Ethiopian government has implemented other measures to increase awareness and prevent the spread of the virus such as providing regular updates and sign language in promotional materials. Even though these are working towards the effort, there is no refuting the power of the internet in transmitting timely and accurate information, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.