The Internet and Regulatory Responses in Ethiopia: Telecoms, Cybercrimes, Privacy, E-commerce, and the New Media

Author:Kinfe Micheal Yilma - Halefom Hailu Abraha
Position:Kinfe Micheal Yilma (LLB, Addis Ababa University; LLM, University of Oslo; LLM, Brunel University London). The author was formerly a Lecturer-in-Law at Hawassa University. Currently, he works as an independent consultant and researcher. - Halefom Hailu Abraha (LLB, Mekelle Univeristy; LLM, University of Southampton). The author currently serves...
Pages:108-153
SUMMARY

Whilst Ethiopia has telephone services since 1894 − not long after its invention−, the history of the Internet in Ethiopia is less than two decades old. The prototype Internet with limited accessibility was introduced only in 1997, and broadband Internet was not widely deployed until recently. This slow pace in the proliferation of the Internet has delayed the legislative responses of the country ... (see full summary)

 
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108
The Internet and Regulatory Responses in
Ethiopia:
Telecoms, Cybercrimes, Privacy, E-commerce, and the New Media
Kinfe Micheal Yilma and Halefom Hailu Abraha
Abstract
Whilst Ethiopia has telephone services since 1894 not long after its
invention, the history of the Internet in Ethiopia is less than two decades old.
The prototype Internet with limited accessibility was introduced only in 1997,
and broadband Internet was not widely deployed until recently. This slow pace
in the proliferation of the Internet has delayed the legislative responses of the
country to the brave new worlds of the Internet. Despite a few laws currently in
operation namely the cybercrime and telecom fraud offence laws, most areas of
the online environment needs the attention of the Ethiopian legislature.
Nonetheless, there are few draft cyber laws that are in the pipeline. This article
briefly reviews major legislative developments in telecoms, cybercrime,
privacy, e-commerce and the new media. It sketches legislative responses of
the Ethiopian legislature to the advent of the Internet by outlining major
sources of Internet law and their defining features. The article further considers
the salient features of the major draft pieces of cyber legislation that await
enactment.
Key terms
Internet, information technology, telecommunications, cyber law, Internet law,
e-commerce, Ethiopia
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v9i1.4
Acronyms
CA
DESL
DETL
DoS
Certification Authority
Draft Electronic Signature Law
Draft Electronic Transactions Law
Denial of Service Attacks
Kinfe Micheal Yilma (LLB, Addis Ababa University; LLM, University of Oslo;
LLM, Brunel University London). The author was formerly a Lecturer-in-Law at Hawassa
University. Currently, he works as an independent consultant and researcher.
 Halefom Hailu Abraha (LLB, Mekelle Univeristy; LLM, University of Southampton).
The author currently serves as Deputy Director of Legal and Policy Affairs and as a Cyber
Law and Policy Researcher at the Ethiop ian Information Network Security Agency.
The authors thank Ato Kidus Teshome for his support in the course of writing this article.
Comments to the authors may be forwarded to: kinfeyilma@gmail.com.
The Internet and Regulatory Responses in Ethiopia 109
EBA
ECX
EICTDA
ETA
EU
ICT
NSA
IP
INSA
ITU
MCIT
NISS
PKI
RCA
SATRC
TFO
TVRO
UNCITRAL
VoIP
Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority
Ethiopian Commodity Exchange
Ethiopian ICT Development Agency
Ethiopian Telecommunications Agency
European Union
Information and Communication Technology
Information Network Security Agency
Internet Protocol
Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency
International Telecommunications Union
Ministry of Communication and Information Technology
National Intelligence and Security Service
Public Key Infrastructure
Root Certification Authority
South Asian Telecommunications Regulator’s Council
Telecom Fraud Offences Proclamation
Television receive-only
United Nations Conference on International Trade Law
Voice over Internet Protocol
“The Government strongly supports the use of the Internet, and recognizes the benefits
that it gives to our society […]. However, cybercrime poses a number of challenges for
Government.”1 Debretsion Gebremichael
“The sad irony is that Ethiopia's enthusiastic embrace of the computer has made it more
vulnerable, as people start dispensing with paper records.”2 Chris Michael
______________
Introduction
Ethiopia was among the few beneficiaries of telecommunication services soon
after its invention in the last quarter of the 19th ce ntury. The Internet was,
however, introduced rather late (in 1997) with limited access. In 2005 the first
four thousand kilometres of fibre optic backbone were laid in Addis Ababa.3
Ethiopia is currently amongst countries with the lowest level of Internet
penetration and use. According to World Internet Status data for 2014, for
1 Debretsion Gebremichael, Cybercrime: Current and Future Trends, Global-ICT-2012,
2012, available at <http://bit.ly/1bGaJJK> (Last accessed on 25 September 2015). Dr.
Debretsion is the Deputy Prime Mini ster and Minister of Communication an d Information
Technology of Ethiopia.
2 Chris Michael, Computer Viruses’ Slow African Expansion, The Guardian, 12 August
2009, available at <http://bit.ly/1IrfbZT> (Last accessed on 25 September 2015).
3 See Ethiopian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Communication
and Information Technology Statistical Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2014, p. 6; see also Aman
Assefa, Information and Communications Technology in Ethiopia: Challenges and
Prospects from an A2K Perspective, in Proceedings of the Gathering of the Access to
Knowledge Global Academy, Yale Law School Information Society Project, Aug ust 2009,
p. 168.
110 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 9, No.1 September 2015
instance, Ethiopia has had only 1.9% Internet penetration.4 Similarly, the World
Economic Forum rates the number of Internet users in Ethiopia at 1.9%, ranking
139 out of 144 countries.5 Recent data released by the Ethiopian government
claims that the level of Internet penetration has reached 5.5% as of D ecember
31, 2013.6 Much of the Internet traffic in Ethiopia is said to be downloads of
content from overseas websites than uploads of local content which constitutes
only 10% of the overall Internet traffic in the country.7
This delay in the proliferation of the Internet has partly played a role in
delaying legislative measures in the field of Internet law.8 The first Ethiopian
legislation that addresses Internet-related endeavours and/or behaviours came
only in 2004,with the adoption of the Ethiopian Criminal Code which penalizes
a short list of computer crimes most notably ‘computer hacking’, ‘spreading
malware’ and ‘denial of service (DoS) attacks’.9 The other –and so far the most
4 World Internet Stats, World Internet Usage and Population Statistics 2014, 2014, available
at <http://bit.ly/1z8zSrO> (Last accessed on 25 September 2015).
5 See Klaus Schwab, Editor (2014), The Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015, Full
Data Edition, The World Economic Forum, p. 509.
6 See Ethiopian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Communication
and Information Technology Statistical Bulletin, supra note 3, p. 7. In a very recent
interview, Dr. Debretsion reveal ed that the number of Internet users in the country has
reached over seven million, which accordingly would put the level of Internet penetration
about 7 %. See Dawit Kebede, The Success Story of Ethiopia’s ICT: Interview with Dr.
Debretsion, Awramba Times, 3 May 2015, webcast available at <http://bit.ly/1EZt8JA>
(Last accessed on 25 September 2015).
7 See Jemal Abdu, Think Tank Research Calls for Telecom Reform, Addis Fortune,
Vol. 15 , No. 766, 5 January 2015, available at <http://bit.ly/1vUl4V2c> (Last accessed on
25 September 2015).
8 Internet law – also called cyberspace l aw, computer law or cyber law – is a new field o f
law that studies the legal aspects of human experience in the virtual world often referred to
as ‘cyberspace’. See Brayan Garner , Editor (2004), Black’s Law Dictionary, St. Paul
Minn, 8th Ed, p. 1168; see also Victor Mayer-Schonberger (2003), The Shape of
Governance: Analysing the World of Intern et Regulation, Virginia Journal of
International Law, Vol. 43, p. 606; see also Chris Marsden, Internet Law, Oxford
Bibliographies, 26 June 2012, available at <http://bit.ly/1FqT7gO> (Last accessed on 25
September 2015).
9 See Arts 706 -709, Ethiopian Criminal Code, Federal Negarit Gazeta, Proclamation No.
414/2004. Note that dozens of cybercrimes have been committed in Ethiopia since the
enactment of the Code, but there currently are only few reported court cases where
cybercrime rules of the Code were applied. See, for instance, Fasika Tadesse, Yonas
Kassahun Receives Two-Year Jail Sentence for Cyber Crimes Against Akiko Seyoum,
Addis Fortune, Vol. 15, No. 757, 2 November 2014, available at <http://bit.ly/1bEUb5C>.
See also Fasika Tadesse, Akiko Sees a Cyber-Crime Guilty Ruling against Accuser for
42m Br, Addis Fortune, Vol. 15, No. 756, 26 Octo ber 2014, available at
<http://bit.ly/1GuZAcf>; Lucy Kassa, Diaspora Investor Set Free in a Higher Court

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