Kenya Suffers $27 Million Economic Blow from Telegram Downtime in 2023

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Kenya faced a staggering economic loss of $27.02 million (Sh4.2 billion) due to the week-long downtime of the Telegram messaging platform during the secondary school national examinations in November last year, according to calculations by NetBlocks, a London-based internet rights organization.

Telegram, boasting approximately 800 million daily active users globally, is a vital platform for sharing large multimedia files and is especially popular in Kenya.

NetBlocks, relying on indicators from the World Bank and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), estimated that businesses and the country incurred daily losses of Sh537 million during the 8-day shutdown. This economic impact resulted from foregone sales, wages, and other benefits derived from the application’s widespread use in Kenya.

“The outage, lasting for more than a week, was not officially acknowledged by the Communications Authority of Kenya. However, its timing, coinciding with the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations, suggests a possible measure to prevent cheating in the college-entry tests,’ Business Daily reported.

A global analysis by Top10VPN, a UK-based internet privacy and security organization, revealed that Kenya’s loss ranked sixteenth among the 25 jurisdictions that experienced internet or social media shutdowns in the past year. The collective economic toll for these 25 countries, including Tanzania, Sudan, and Ethiopia, amounted to $9 billion (Sh1.4 trillion), lasting a total of 79,238 hours—an 18 percent increase from 2022.

Top10VPN’s digital rights lead, Samuel Woodhams, and head of research, Simon Migliano, condemned such deliberate disruptions, calling them “internet censorship in its most extreme form” and emphasizing that these outages not only infringe on citizens’ digital rights but also result in significant national economic self-harm.

This incident marks the first reported social media outage in Kenya, a country where internet interruptions have been relatively uncommon, even during the 2022 elections, which globally are known to be a common catalyst for internet censorship. The economic repercussions of such disruptions highlight the importance of safeguarding digital infrastructure for both individual rights and national economic stability.