Young Coding Whiz in Dark as Cameroon Turns Off Internet

Parts of the country have been off-line for nearly a month
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2017 10:44 AM CST
Young Coding Whiz in Dark as Cameroon Turns Off Internet
Cameroon supporters chant ahead of a soccer match against Guinea Bissau on Jan. 18, 2017.   (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Large swaths of the African nation of Cameroon have been cut off from the internet for a nearly a month now—and it's a punishment, not a tech glitch. The government ordered telecom companies to block access to regions in the southwest and northwest on Jan. 17 following protests, putting about 20% of the nation off-line. Here's what's happening:

  • The regions affected are predominantly English-speaking, and the move came after groups staged protests over what they claim is government bias against them. Most of the nation speaks French. Al Jazeera has the background on the growing animosity over the issue.
  • One of those affected is 17-year-old Nji Collins Gbah, one of 34 winners of Google's Code-in competition for teens worldwide. Gbah is Africa's first winner, but he lives in the northwest city of Bamenda, where the internet is now dead. He's had to travel seven hours to the capital city Yaounde for a connection. His full story is at the BBC.
  • Shutting off the internet is an increasingly common practice by governments across Africa, reports the New York Times. Gambia, the Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Egypt made similar moves before Cameroon.

  • At Motherboard, a blogger in Canada writes that he is scrambling to communicate with his relatives in Cameroon. "Social apps like WhatsApp and Facebook are lifelines between members of the African diaspora." Read the piece here.
  • The blackout is particularly painful in the southwest city of Buea, which is nicknamed Cameroon's "Silicon Mountain" and has spawned dozens of startups. Tech companies are reeling, and critics fear that entrepreneurs will be forced to leave the country, reports CNN.
  • A UN human rights official calls the shutdown an "appalling violation of their right to freedom of expression." Read the post here.
(More Cameroon stories.)

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