Internet access is in the process of being restored in Ethiopia as of 6:00 a.m. UTC Thursday 27 June according to network measurement data. Overall connectivity is rising toward levels observed prior to the total disruption with wifi hotspots coming online, although mobile data remains unavailable.
Ethiopia had been almost totally cut off from the internet for over 100 hours following a shutdown which started Saturday evening amid reports of an attempted plot to unseat the Amhara Regional State Government.
Confirmed: #Ethiopia has restored internet access after a nationwide internet shutdown spanning six days; connectivity now at 85% and rising according to real-time network data; disruption began amid reports of attempted coup in #Amhara state #KeepItOn 📈https://t.co/rQ66IGaI4L pic.twitter.com/05EjdM17pK
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 27, 2019
Update: Social media, VPN services and messaging apps are being blocked as of noon. Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp web and CDN and some VPN sites now restricted, with Telegram and YouTube also intermittently down:
Update on internet access in #Ethiopia:— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 27, 2019
📉Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger and some VPN now blocked with Telegram and YouTube also intermittently down
⚠️ Mobile data remains cut#KeepItOnhttps://t.co/rQ66IGaI4L pic.twitter.com/TUyXiFk0BZ
Shortly after the attack on Saturday, the Prime Minister’s secretariat appeared live on Ethiopian Television to explain, “armed men tried to unseat the Amhara Regional State Government by force but their attempt has been foiled.” It later emerged that prominent government figures had been shot dead.
Instances of gunfire were also reported by the U.S. Embassy and other sources in Addis Ababa. Concerns grew over the possibility of wider conflict as a day of national mourning was declared, although the alleged attackers were reported killed by Monday afternoon with the situation appearing to stabilize.
Is access fully restored?
Access levels are approaching, but still below, ordinary levels recorded prior to the onset of the total shutdown on Saturday with mobile data networks still offline. NetBlocks web probe tests confirm that social media and messaging apps are not blocked. On 10 June, Ethiopia’s two most popular communications apps Telegram and WhatsApp were blocked without explanation but later unblocked and currently remain available to those with internet access.
Details on returning internet access in #Ethiopia:— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 27, 2019
📈 Fixed-line/wifi coming online
📈 Messaging apps and social media available
⚠️ Mobile data relied on by many remains cut
Access to knowledge and communications are essential in times of crisis#KeepItOn
Internet users living abroad rejoiced hearing from friends and relatives for the first time in days:
So good to finally get WhatsApp messages from my family and friends in Ethiopia 😭 No internet in 2019 cannot be the way forward. Welcome back though, apparently only WiFi is turned on but we'll take that!!!
— Kalkidan Mulugeta (@Kalkidafrique) June 27, 2019
Others mused about the unknowns:
Internet is back, let the conspiracy theory begin#Ethiopia
— Ruhama (@ruhama_m_belay) June 27, 2019
What regions of Ethiopia were offline?
Network connectivity levels generally correlate to internet availability in a given country. Between 2% and 9% of Ethiopia’s networks remained reachable during the shutdown, with those connections serving critical infrastructure and appearing to provide access for technical staff and government officials.
Some of the same internet addresses were also kept online during the earlier series of disruptions in June, which had reportedly been implemented as a measure to prevent cheating in national exams.
How did the shutdown progress?
Data indicate that the outage rapidly progressed to have nationwide impact, following a brief partial disruption affecting parts of the north, including Amhara State, and some eastern regions. By the time word of a coup attempt had spread, some 98% of Ethiopia was already offline.
Update: Internet access in #Ethiopia has been cut for over 24 hours following the coup attempt in #Amhara state; real-time network data show 99% of country currently offline; objective of blackout remains unclear ⬇️https://t.co/v2ex69GzNd pic.twitter.com/wqfWhkLwMb— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 23, 2019
Alert: Internet cut across #Ethiopia amid reports of coup attempt targeting #Amhara regional state government; nationwide connectivity currently now at 10% with capital and most states offline; incident ongoing #KeepItOn⚠️📉https://t.co/v2ex69YbbN pic.twitter.com/pAtfI7nAPq
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 22, 2019
Who is responsible for Ethiopia’s internet outage?
It remains unclear which party ordered the internet shutdown in the first place, and also unclear why Ethiopia remained offline for five days. More details are likely to emerge now that residents are able to communicate with the outside world.
The brief return of internet in #Ethiopia 21:55 pm. UTC (1.5 hours ago) is unusual and suggests attempts were made to get reconnected.— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 22, 2019
After a coup attempt governments will generally aim to re-establish state media and internet as a matter of urgency.
But that hasn't happened: pic.twitter.com/BbdMhqhu3u
In recent weeks Ethiopia has experienced a series of nationwide blackouts causing significant social and economic harm, stoking dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The latest information blackout comes exactly one year after his government declared freedom of expression a “foundational right” and proposed a series of pro-democracy reforms which now face unprecedented challenges.
NetBlocks diffscans, which map the entire IP address space of a country in real time, show internet outages corresponding to connectivity disruptions. Purposeful internet outages generally have a distinct network pattern used by NetBlocks to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.
NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.