The documentary ‘Citizens Offline’ by our EDP member Tina Freyburg of the University of St. Gallen and two of her colleagues, Veronique Wavre and Lisa Garbe, nominated for the Golden Impala Award at the Amakula International Film Festival in Uganda in March is now available online for the broader public.
The documentary explains the role of telecom companies in politically motivated and state government ordered disruptions of access to the internet, taking the example of the 2016 shutdown during elections in Uganda. Governments typically do not directly restrict internet access but order telecom operators to cut access to particular services or entire (sub-)networks. In times where fears spread that access to the internet will be disrupted on polling day during many of the upcoming African elections this year, the video addresses an extremely topical problem.
The documentary was produced within the project “Telecommunications Politics in Authoritarian Developing Countries” of the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS). The project offers a comprehensive analysis of political effects of information and communications technologies (ICT) in authoritarian developing countries focusing on the influence of varying types of ownership of commercial internet service providers (ISP). The project members explore how and when authoritarian rulers are restricted in their control of ICT if the state is no majority shareholder through theory-guided and rigorous empirical research in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), using a large-N analysis [all SSA; 1970-2015] to identify determinants of the effect of ownership on the likelihood of internet shutdowns, and small-N case studies to investigate how different types of ownership restrict a state’s coercive use of ICT.