Government’s shut down of internet services in Cameroon’s two English speaking regions for over two months has turned many citizens living in these regions into internet refugees.
It is common place to find many Cameroonians especially youths who are hungry for Internet connection, stalking francophone regions like Douala, Yaoundé and Bafoussam where internet services are available.
From the South West region, those in need of internet connectivity and who are forced beyond endurance to hunt for the high-tech communication technology are often crowded in the tollgate at New Bonako just a few minutes’ drive from the Mungo Bridge.
The forced migration due to the shutdown has had a particularly negative effect on the country’s growing tech industry. Owners of start-ups in the Anglophone cities are crying foul over the cost of migrating to Francophone cities in a bid to get internet services. Otto Akama, community manager at the ActivSpaces incubator, says his start-up has had to cancel major training programs and events, transferring them to Francophone cities, which Akama says is unfair to the local tech community.
“In the first month of the shutdown, we began by taking daily commutes to nearby cities with internet. We worked from Douala. However, the cost of daily commutes and other inconvenience factors made us to reduce the number of people who commute and the average number of commutes per week. This has led to a rapid drop in productivity.”
Cameroon government had ordered the suspension of Internet services to the English speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon on January 18 after a lawyers’ and teachers’ strike escalated into violence. The government claimed protesters were using social media “to incite riot”.
Apparently, Government, in its swiftness to stem the flow of rather rancorous and radical postings and viral streams on social media, severely misjudged the strength of the aftershock of the shutdown in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, which has sparked an out pour of Anglophone internet refugees.