By shutting down the internet, Sudan cripples protests and the booming digital economy

Sudan’s military rulers follow the lead of autocrats across Africa, the Middle East and Asia in crushing dissent with digital blackouts - with disastrous results for the lives and incomes of citizens

By shutting down the internet, Sudan cripples protests and the booming digital economy

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It has also created obstacles for United Nations organizations in a country where an estimated 5. 5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. “If you’re not in an office that has internet, there’s no more communication as soon as you’re out the door,” said Stephane Pichette, a Canadian who serves as the field operations chief in the Sudan office of UNICEF. “It’s taking us back in time.

In Sudan, the regime has said very little about the reasons for the internet blackout, except to say it is necessary for “national security. ” (Some hotels and large offices have avoided the shutdown because they have fixed internet lines, but the vast majority of Sudanese have no access to those lines.

Back in the days when the internet still worked, 27-year-old Shehabaldin Ahmed supported his family with a job at an Uber-inspired car service – and sent videos to his friends to show them the enthusiasm of Sudan’s pro-democracy protests. Now both are impossible.

Three months after that council took over, Sudan is one of several nations in Africa to limit access to the internet, mobile services and social media.

He has joined the street protests, but he has to interrupt his activism to check on his parents, using expensive phone credit or driving home to see them because he can’t use the free WhatsApp service to contact them. “It has been very stressful,” he tells The Globe. “But this is why we’re on the streets.

Now the military rulers have prevented that. “They closed the internet to hide their killing and raping,” he tells The Globe and Mail in an interview. “It hurts that they’re getting away with it.

Three months after a military coup, Sudan is just the latest of dozens of countries that have shut down the internet for political reasons, sometimes for a few days but often for weeks or months at a time.

After massacring more than 100 protesters a month ago, Sudan’s military regime shut down the internet on every mobile phone in the country.

Another Tirhal driver, 30-year-old Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim, says he has lost all his income since the shutdown began. “My life has literally stopped,” he says. “It can’t get any worse than this.

One Sudanese lawyer launched a court case against a leading mobile service provider last month to challenge the internet ban.

But the internet disruption has devastated the digital economy. “It feels like we’ve gone back to the Stone Age,” says Osama Elbushra, a 23-year-old business student.

But it has achieved its goal: inflicting a severe blow to the protest movement that had challenged the military rulers. “We feel silenced,” Mr. Ahmed says. “It makes me feel so sad.

In Africa, the Middle East and Asia, a growing number of autocratic governments are depriving their citizens of access to social media and other internet sites.

Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim, another Tirhal driver, says the internet outage has destroyed his income.

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