The Algerian government recently made a major move in their efforts to prioritize the education of the country’s youth. To eliminate the risk of cheating during this year’s high school exams they shut off the internet to the entire country, including all 40 million citizens and the numerous businesses that operate in the area.
The decision came in response to a controversy that swept the country in 2016 when 7 different final exam papers were leaked online. The papers were spread among the student body through various social media platforms, ultimately resulting in 300,000 students being forced to retake their exams. It was reported that the incident led to police arresting dozens of education officials including teachers and heads of national exam centers for their involvement.
The government attempted to institute a smaller shutdown in 2017, only blocking social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, however, they found that it didn’t make a significant change to the cheating problem.
This year’s internet shut down was only one of a number of precautions instituted for this exam period, including phone jammers, surveillance cameras and metal detectors in more than 2000 exam centers across the country.
— Radio Algérienne (@radioalgerie) June 20, 2018
The blackout will last for a total of three hours each day during the exam season, lasting until an hour after the start of each exam. Earlier this week Radio Algeria tweeted the exact timeline for the blackouts occurring from June 20 to 25. The blackout can also be seen in Oracle’s Internet Intelligence project, a website that is dedicated to reporting the performance of the internet around the globe.
The decision has some serious economic implications isn’t one that officials took lightly. In fact, Education Minister Nouria Benghabrit stated that they were “not comfortable” with this decision, however, she added that “we should not passively stand in front of such a possible leak.”
In response to the blackout, people from around the globe took to Twitter, using the hashtag #AlgeriaBlackOut to share their opinions, criticisms, and concerns regarding the decision. While some mocked the government and its choices with jokes and comics, others warned about the slippery slope that this may represent with the government taking such extreme control over the freedoms of the people.
If you live in a country where they shut down the internet to avoid exam cheating, run run so far and don’t look back #AlgeriaBlackout
— SΠΔiL OΠHĘЙiΔ (@SMAOUH) June 20, 2018
Twitter user @SMAOUH, one of the many expressing these concerns, tweeted, “If you live in a country where they shut down the internet to avoid exam cheating, run run so far and don’t look back #AlgeriaBlackout”
A photo of a crowded airport also circulated both Facebook and Twitter, allegedly as a consequence of the internet blackout causing the passenger registration to be unavailable. It highlights one of many ways that a nationwide blackout can negatively impact our internet-dependent society.
Vu sur #FB
Arrêt sur image : conséquence de la coupure d’internet à cause du BAC, le système de l’enregistrement des passagers à l’aéroport d’#Alger s’est retrouvé bloqué..#AlgeriaBlackout #Bac2018 #Algérie pic.twitter.com/u63Ci3v1Rd
— Boukhalfa Ahmed Inal 🌱 (@Boukhalfa_Inal) June 20, 2018
Algeria isn’t the only country to implement a similar ban. The digital-rights advocacy group Access Now has reported that a number of other countries are also using the same technique to prevent cheating, including Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, Tunisia, India and the Republic of the Congo. Whether this technique proves to be efficient, or if the benefits will outweigh the impact on those in the area, remains to be seen.
Image via The Independent