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Internet outage in violence-plagued Somalia is extra headache for businesses


Reuters

By Abdi SheikhMOGADISHU, July 16 (Reuters) - A severed marine cable has
left Somalia without internet for weeks, triggering losses for
businesses, residents said, and adding a layer of chaos in a
country where Islamist insurgents are carrying out a campaign of
bombings and killings.
    Abdi Anshuur, Somalia's minister for posts and
telecommunications, told state radio that internet to the Horn
of Africa state went down a month ago after a ship cut an
undersea cable connecting it to global data networks.
    Businesses have had to close or improvise to remain open and
university students told Reuters their educational courses had
been disrupted.
    Anshuur said the outage was costing Somalia the equivalent
of about $10 million in economic output.
    "The night internet went off marked the end of my daily
bread," Mohamed Nur, 22, told Reuters in the capital Mogadishu.
    Nur said he now begged "tea and cigarettes from friends"
after  the internet cutoff also severed his monthly income of
$500 that he took in from ads he developed and placed on the
video website, YouTube.
    Somalia's economy is still picking up slowly after a
combined force of the army and an African Union peacekeeping
force helped drive the Islamist group, al Shabaab, out of
Mogadishu and other strongholds.
    Al Shabaab wants to topple the western backed government and
rule according to its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia
law.
    The group remains formidable and lethal, with its campaign
of frequent bombings and killings a key source of significant
security risk for most businesses and regular life.
    Now the internet outage potentially compounds the hardships
for most firms. Most young people who say they are unable to
work because of the outage spend hours idling in front of tea
shops.
    Mohamed Ahmed Hared, commercial manager of Somali Optical
Networks(SOON), a large internet service provider in the
country, told Reuters  his business was loosing over a million
dollars a day.
   Hared's clients, he said, had reported a range of crippled
services including passport and e-tickets printing and money
remittances.
    Some students and staff at the University of Somalia in
Mogadishu told Reuters their learning had been disrupted because
google, which they heavily rely on for research, was now
inaccessible.
    The absence of especially popular internet sites like
Facebook and YouTube and Google was, however, cause for
celebration for some in the conservative, Muslim nation.
    "My wife used to be (on) YouTube or Facebook every minute,"
Mohamud Osman, 45, said, adding the online activity would
sometimes distract her from feeding her baby and that the habit
had once forced him to try to get a divorce.
     "Now I am happy ... internet is without doubt a necessary
tool of evil."

 (Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
 ((Email:elias.biryabarema@thomsonreuters.com; Tel. +254 20 499
1232; Reuters Messaging:
elias.biryabarema.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: SOMALIA INTERNET/ (PIX,TV)



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