"Internet Shutdowns in Africa | “Don’t Tax My Megabytes”: Digital Infrastructure and the Regulation of Citizenship in Africa." International Journal of Communication, 2020.

Type: 
Article
Author(s): 
Clovis Bergère

Across Africa, governments are increasingly taxing Internet access, sometimes targeting specific websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. This raises questions about the digital infrastructure and how it mediates relations between states and citizens in Africa. Comparing recent efforts in Guinea and Benin with tax Internet data, this article argues that these taxes restrict and slow down access to a global resource. I also argue that the emergence of the digital addressing infrastructure represents a shift from disciplinary to control societies. This notion counters dominant narratives of digital media as necessarily democratizing forces in Africa by showing how African governments rework digital infrastructures to regulate populations. Ultimately, processes of interpretation and translation from above as well as from below need to be understood as enmeshed in specific historical-political arrangements of power, thus challenging both essentialized notions of media infrastructures and binaries that equate hybridity with resistance and meaning-making with the subversive.