On February 18, 2016, our neighbours to the west went to cast their ballots in a hotly contested election.
Shortly after voting started, the Ugandan government shut down access to major social media sites in the East African country.
Five months later, on July 15, a similar case of censorship hit Turkey after attempted overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
These two cases are not unique.
Governments around the world (at least 11 African countries in 2016) have been known to enforce some form of censorship on citizens.
Many see internet shutdown as a way of restoring order, while a majority of the citizens see it as oppression and breach of their rights to access information.
But Kenya is a strong democracy, I hear you say, and that can’t possibly happen here, or can it?
Although the government has stressed that it doesn’t intend to shut down the internet on and after August 8, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
The Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) recently denounced any attempts to shut down the internet, claiming that it would cripple its transmission of results and this raises concern.
Is the government considering an internet shutdown? Should we be worried?
Our Constitution basically allows the government to bend the rules by invoking the “threat to national security clause” for the citizens’ “good”.
Censorship can be enforced by ordering internet service providers to block access to certain or all IP addresses hence a partial and full censorship.
This kind of arm-twisting normally leaves ISPs with two options: Comply or have their operating licence revoked.
So how can you tunnel your way around an internet shutdown? How can you regain access to your much loved source of news and gossip on social media sites in case of an internet curfew?
A virtual private network (VPN) would be your first line of offence due to its simplicity and ease of use.
This tool works by enabling you to access a site that you wouldn’t ordinarily access due to the aforementioned curfew by making the site server think you are in a different country.
For example, if the domain facebook.com is blocked for users in Kenya, a VPN will enable you to browse as if you were in another country, say Britain, where the site isn’t blocked.
The programme does this by reassigning your device an Internet Protocol (IP) address for the country where the blockade isn’t in effect.
A variety of VPN programmes are available for all the common operating systems in premium or paid pricing and some are absolutely free.
Start with the commonly used VPNs, such as Tunnelbear, OpenVPN and ExpressVPN.
SURF INTERNET ANONYMOUSLY
The second option would be using The Onion Router, famously known as TOR browser— a free program that will enable you to surf the internet anonymously by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays all around the world.
TOR is a fairly easy programme, with easy tutorials available on its official website on how to install and run it.
Other methods include the use of Proxies and modification of Domain Name Servers (DNS).
These two options can seem a bit complicated but online tutorials can easily get you unstuck.
Therefore, in the unforeseen circumstance the government decides to shut down the internet during or after the elections, you can count on these methods to get you back online.