Internet service disruption


…Causes, Challenges & Recommendations

By Desmond O. APPIAH 

Last week, some countries across West and Central Africa, and some parts of Southern Africa suffered internet outages causing major disruption in internet services. The disruption, which began on Thursday, March 14th, 2024, is attributed to damage in multiple undersea cables that carry internet traffic. The exact cause of the cable failures remains unclear, but the impact has been significant. Countries like Ivory Coast, Liberia, Benin, Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso have experienced severe to high-impact outages.

The impact has been detrimental causing disruption to socio-economic activities.  In Ghana, which is one of the countries that was highly impacted by the outage, brands, businesses, and organisations were faced with operational hurdles, disruption to services, communication, loss of revenue among others. Communication channels like social media and video conferencing were widely inaccessible. Students, professionals, content creators among others who rely heavily on internet connectivity encountered difficulties.

Despite reports indicating that disruption to internet services in affected regions could take weeks or months to fix, industry players and key stakeholders in Ghana including regulatory, MNOs, international partners among others have been working round the clock to restore service offering a glimmer of hope to millions of users. Telcos that were affected are gradually restoring internet services to millions of subscribers across the country. Service providers like SEACOM have rerouted traffic to alternative cables, demonstrating the growing flaws built into the network.

In an era driven by data and internet connectivity, such disruptions underscore the urgent need for more infrastructure investment to ensure uninterrupted access and network connectivity in the face of future outages. It is estimated that a total investment of US $100 billion will be required to achieve universal, affordable, and good quality internet access by 2030, according to a report by the World Bank. Broadening access to ICT, digital infrastructure investment and connectivity should be a key priority for all – governments, business leaders etc. Today’s data-driven, digital world presents immense socio-economic opportunities for millions of people in Africa and beyond. Disruptions such as this pose many challenges including further widening the internet access gap.

With restoration efforts underway, here are some ways to cope with the current limited connectivity:

Rely on alternative communication channels: As services are currently being restored, we can explore other trusted alternative means of communication like SMS or local mobile network calls (if available).

Redefine priorities: In such instances, it is essential to reassess priorities and focus on what truly matters. Identify critical tasks that can be accomplished without internet access and allocate resources accordingly. By streamlining operations, businesses and individuals can navigate the outage more effectively and allocate internet access to priority tasks.

Offline activities: Take advantage of this time to engage in some offline activities like reading, board games, or spending time outdoors.

Stay informed: Get updates from local or trusted news sources, internet service providers (ISPs) and community networks for information on progress made and alternative solutions. Keep abreast of developments surrounding the internet outage and be prepared to adapt your coping strategies as needed. Flexibility and adaptability are essential in navigating this.

Build Resilient Networks: Now more than ever, community support and collaboration are key to navigating this trying time. Reach out to neighbours, colleagues, and local organisations to share resources and learnings.

To prevent such outages causing major disruption in future, investment in mixed infrastructure with adequate capacity is very vital. Other frameworks, policies and measures also need to be put in place to mitigate the effects of such outages in the future. In countries like Nigeria, there is availability of wireless satellite connectivity through ISPs (internet service providers) such as Starlink. Though expensive, this alternative is not affected by the current undersea cable disruption.

As efforts are being made to restore internet services across the continent, let us not lose sight of the lessons it offers. This disruption serves as a great reminder of the vulnerabilities in our digital systems, the need for continuous improvement and the importance of building alternative solutions, for example (satellite connectivity) in such crises.

It is important to remember that this is a temporary situation as the two major telcos affected have worked round the clock within the last few days to restore full connectivity.

Desmond popularly known as Dessy Ocean is a Ghanaian tech content creator who is passionate about digital, tech and lifestyle conversations. He has leveraged his social media platforms to make tech content easy to understand and accessible to everyone through his simple tutorials on tech trends, concepts, and product reviews.. Connect with Dessy via:

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