The West African state of Togo shutdown its internet on 5th September for a week. The government wished to stop youth from mobilizing online to hold protests against the reining Gnassingbe family. But the result also provided the world an experiment in what a society would do if it suddenly lost the internet.
Local and foreign media reported that the country, where WhatsApp is ubiquitous, experienced a more attentive civilian workforce, a rise in old-fashioned social interaction such as conversations in bars and walks in parks, and a drop in sexual activity among the young as online seduction was replaced by the more expensive business of actually paying for flowers, drinks and meals. There was also a surge in the purchase of books and printed reading material.
The Gnassingbe family have ruled Togo for over 50 years. Since August they have been facing a revived opposition over the country’s stagnant economy and the ruling family’s reluctance to surrender power. The internet closure was designed to preempt a new round of protests planned for September.
The ban, however, is reported to have been counterproductive. The sudden loss of WhatsApp has led to far greater political awareness among a previously apathetic youth. Large business, whose operations were largely cloud-based, saw all of its activities come to a standstill during the week of the ban and has now become more vocally anti-government.
September 29, 2017