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Africa and the Internet: a 21st century human rights issue?

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This was well manifested in the recent protests in Uganda, when the government instructed the Internet service providers to shut down social media like Facebook and Twitter.

First, the telecom industry is one of the leaders in tax revenues in Uganda and provides a lot of jobs for the Ugandan youth in a country where the number of unemployed graduates has become worrying. In the face of such a directive companies had a lot at stake, most telecoms provide Internet and they feared a backlash. This directive was leaked to the press by people in the telecoms who were concerned that they would be the first victims of the backlash. So in the end the government didn’t achieve its mission. President Yoweri Museveni cannot choose to get the taxes from the telecoms, which help him run the country and at the same time easily pass directives to control information.

Clay Shirky, adjunct professor at New York University graduate program on Interactive Telecommunications said no other invention has ever threatened the Westphalian nation-state like the Internet has done. The states in the past were able to effectively control radio, newspapers, and TV, but the Internet is a challenge.

“This is a cultural and political choice," Shirky said. "Protecting freedom of speech is a governance challenge. Westphalia, where government controls everything, survived the 20th Century media innovations, we are going to see if they can survive the internet.”

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