October 25, 2012

Oromo : Low Internet Access

With only 0.5 percent of Ethiopia’s population having access to the Internet, the Oromo need to find creative ways to take interest in social media usage as a tool for political and civic engagement.

Below is an article published by Oromo Press:

Social media usage in political and civic engagement in nations like the United States is at an all-time high, as shown by the high volumes of tweets and Facebook updates during the 2012 U.S presidential debates. The first U.S. presidential debate saw over 10 million tweets, which is the highest of all the debates. During the third debate on foreign policy, the number of tweets fell to 6.5 million posts. The numbers tell us that Americans are using social media to support their most favorite candidate(s) and issues. The competition to tweet more among peers in a network was obviously visible. There were also tens of Oromos in diaspora who cared to tweet about the American presidential debates.

For clarity, social media refers to interactive platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and numerous others by means of which individuals and communities create user-generated content or share content created by others.  Broadly speaking, social media are used for personal, professional and business purposes.

A report produced by Pew Research Center on the Internet indicates that the use of social media in political engagement is becoming a common practice in the United States. According to the survey, 4-in-10 American adults use social media for civic and political engagement.  Specifically, current trends show that Americans have put social media to the following specific uses:

“...social media users have employed the platforms to post their thoughts about civic and political issues, react to others’ postings, press friends to act on issues and vote, follow candidates, ‘like’ and link to others’ content, and belong to groups formed on social networking sites.”

One cannot advocate that the Oromo and other Horn of African peoples use the Internet at the same rate or for the same purposes with Americans. The empirical reality such as the low level penetration of the Internet and low level of literacy and human rights conditions, among other factors, will obviously limit our ability to employ these technologies to their fullest potentials in the homeland--Oromia. Internet penetration in the Ethiopian empire stands at under one 1 percent --to be exact only 0.5 percent of Ethiopia's population has access to the Internet.  Unfortunately, due to the culture of pervasive surveillance and state's fear of the Internet and media, beside economic reasons, Ethiopia is officially a technological laggard at the very tail of most African nations.

The rough estimate for Oromos with access to the Internet is by far less than 0.5 percent because Internet access is limited to urban business, academic and political elites. The vast majority of Oromos live in the rural areas in Oromia and there is no way they can use Twitter or Facebook. The urban Oromo are under constant surveillance even to use these communication technologies for personal networking reasons. The government restricts Oromo's access to technologies for fear that they will use them in organizing a revolution. For that reason, one can estimate that Internet penetration in Oromia can be the lowest of all the regions of the empire.