Kenya lost $27m during Telegram shutdown in 2023

Saturday January 13 2024

Telegram application icon on Apple iPhone XS max screen. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


Kenya is estimated to have lost $27.02 million due to the Telegram downtime experienced in November last year during the last week of the secondary school national examinations.

Calculations by NetBlocks- a London-based internet rights organisation, show that the eight-day shutdown of the popular messaging platform in Keny, significantly inconvenienced businesses relying on it, making them incur billions in losses.

For each day that Telegram was down, the businesses and the country are estimated to have lost a total of Ksh537 million ($3.4 million) in foregone sales, wages and economic benefits that are estimated to trickle down from use of the application in Kenya.

Read: Why did Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp shut down?

NetBlocks calculates the economic cost of social media shutdowns from World Bank and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) indicators, which estimate, in monetary terms, the economic benefits generated in a country from uninterrupted internet and social media use.

Telegram, an instant messaging platform mostly used for sharing large multimedia files, is one of the most popular social media platforms in Kenya and globally, with an estimated 800 million daily active users, according to data firm Statista.


The outage experienced for more than a week last year, was never formally announced or acknowledged by the Communications Authority of Kenya, but its coincidence with the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations may have been an indication that the shutdown was a measure to curtail cheating in the college-entry tests.

Analysis by Top10VPN, an internet privacy and security organisation in the UK, shows that Kenya’s loss was the sixteenth largest out of all the 25 jurisdictions that shutdown the internet or different social media platforms last year.

Jointly, the 25 countries, which include Tanzania, Sudan, and Ethiopia, lost $9 billion to the internet disruptions, which generally lasted for 79,238 hours, an 18 percent increase from 2022.

Read: Eastern Africa economies suffer due to internet shutdowns

“This kind of deliberate disruption is internet censorship in its most extreme form. Not only do these internet outages infringe on citizens’ digital rights but they are also acts of national economic self-harm,” remarked Top10VPN’s digital rights lead Samuel Woodhams and their head of research, Simon Migliano, in a joint statement.

Last year was the first time a social media outage was reported in Kenya. Internet has generally been uninterrupted in the country, even in 2022 when elections were held. Elections is one of the common reasons for internet censorships globally.