Kinfe Michael Yilma, a scholar at Brunel University London UK, discusses Ethiopia’s internet policies and participation in internet governance forums.
Ethiopia is among those countries with the lowest level of internet penetration and use. A 2014 World Internet Stats report, for instance, claims that Ethiopia has had only 1.9% internet penetration. Similarly, the World Economic Forum also rated the number of internet users in Ethiopia at 1.1%, ranking the country 142 out of 144 countries surveyed in 2012/13. As of December 31, 2013, that number had only risen to 5.5%, according to a report released by the Ethiopian government. Indeed, it was only in 1997 that Ethiopia introduced the internet, and not until 2005 that the first four thousand kilometers of fiber optic backbone were laid in Addis Ababa. This delay in the proliferation of the internet has played a role in delaying the development of internet policies including legislative measures surrounding the internet.
Ethiopia’s internet policies are part of the country’s broader information and communication technology (ICT) policy. The first Ethiopian ICT policy was drafted and submitted to the Council of Ministers (CoM) in 2002. The policy envisioned, among other developments, the improvement of the social and economic well-being of the Ethiopian people through the exploitation of opportunities created by ICTs. Only a few measures based on the ICT policy of 2002were implemented, most notably the promulgation of the first set of cybercrime rules as part of the Criminal Code of the 2004. The CoM, however, replaced the 2002 policy with a more comprehensive policy in August 2009.