‘Freedom on the Net’ report says Ethiopia among the least free

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According to the ‘Freedom on the Net 2013′ report, Ethiopia has been labeled as “least free” and ranked 79 from 100; 1 being the most free and 100 the least free. The report states that Ethiopia has one of the lowest internet and mobile telephone penetrations in the world as inadequate infrastructure, government monopoly over the telecom sector, and obstructive telecom policies have notably hindered the growth of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

The report further reads “Despite low access, the government maintains a strict system of control over digital media, making Ethiopia the only country in Sub Sahara Africa to implement nationwide internet filtering.”Ethiopia’s telecommunication infrastructure is among the least developed in Africa and is almost entirely absent in rural areas. As of the end of 2012, internet penetration stood at just 1.5 percent, up slightly from 1.1 percent in 2011. On the other hand, the number of fixed broadband subscriptions increased dramatically from 4,600 subscriptions in 2011 to nearly 38,000 in 2012, although the number still represents a penetration rate of only 0.4 percent.Mobile phone penetration in 2012 was roughly 24 percent, with a little over 20.5 million subscriptions, up from 17 percent in 2011.Regarding access, the report suggests that the combined cost of purchasing a computer, initiating an internet connection and usage fees makes internet access beyond the reach of many Ethiopians. It also suggests that Ethiopia’s internet connections are among the most expensive in the world when compared with monthly incomes of citizens.Most people rely on internet cafes to use the internet, but the connection at these places is indeed very slow. According to a 2010 study conducted by Manchester University’s School of Education, it was found that accessing an online e-mail account and opening one message took six minutes in a typical internet cafÉ.Internet access via mobile phones is also beset by slow connection speeds. “According to a 2012 report by the Internet Society, telecom policy issues and poor connectivity are largely to blame for the country’s “low internet speeds”, the report continued. The government has sought to increase access for government offices and schools in rural areas through different projects, although the report claims that the projects have been used to broadcast political messages from the central government in Addis Ababa to teachers, students and district administrators in remote parts of the country.According to the report, the Ethiopian government is reluctant to ease its grip on the telecommunication sector. The report also claims that, in addition to the state monopoly of the sector, increased corruption within its ranks has been highlighted as a major reason for poor telecom services in the country. According to a 2012 World Bank report, the telecommunication sector in Ethiopia has the highest risk of corruption compared to other sectors assessed, such as land, education and construction.

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