It has been 72 days since the government of Cameroon shut down the internet in the English-speaking regions. The shutdown was as a result of the protests of Anglophone Cameroon against marginalization from the majorly Francophone government.
The internet blackout has led to the virtual crippling of the country's budding technology sector and essentially creating "internet refugees". Citizens and startups resident in the English-speaking parts have had to shuttle back and forth to the commercial capital of Douala to access the internet - remember Nji Collins, the student who won the Google Code-In competition?
Now, tech developers in the affected parts have come together to find a way around their difficulty: an internet refugee camp.
Located in Bonako, a village near the border that separates the Anglophone Southwest from the Francophone region of Littoral, the one-room safe space was collectively rented by six startups. They brought in furniture, a generator for electricity and their own modem portable internet for use. ActivSpaces, Cameroon’s first tech hub and incubator, and Njorku, a job listing startup sponsored the idea. And just having that space has shortened their daily commute - to Douala - by over an hour.
Speaking to Quartz, Otto Akama, the community manager of ActivSpaces, says about the travel to Douala:
"It was tedious. The commute was not easy. The real benefit [of coming to Bonako] is that there’s no traffic.”
Nigerian Android developer, Moyinoluwa Adeyemi, has created an Android app, #BringBackOurInternet, that keeps track of the number of the days the shutdown has lasted. The app also has a share feature so we can lend our voices to theirs, in calling for their government to stop what is effectively digital discrimination and oppression.
The internet shutdown has already cost Cameroon over a million dollars, and their very young tech sector is suffering. It's been 72 days, but the Cameroonian government is STILL yet to publicly announce why it shut down the internet.
It's a damn shame.