South Sudan: the Internet Birth of a State

On 9 July 2011, a new country was born: South Sudan. After Eritrea in 1993, it became the newest state to become independent in Africa. Governments, ambassadors, journalists, academics, NGOs have developed their own analysis of the creation of the new state. Everyone agrees on the relative smoothness of the secession from Sudan since 2005 while everyone also worries for the future of the new state.

Website of the South Sudanese Government (10 July 2011)

South Sudan wants to become a new country in its own right. All the symbols and state paraphernalia must be garnered: a capital, a flag, a national anthem, currency, stamps, official maps, a football team… In the middle of this list stands the Internet. The new government opened its own website and applied for its own domain name: .ss. As soon as 9 July 2011, users of Wikipedia have updated the page concerning the former southern region of Sudan. Countless websites and blogs (as this one) echoed the creation of this new African state. It seems like a new state could not exist without the Internet. This phenomenon is, I believe, the first one of its kind. No political entity can exist in 2011 without being on the web.

In 2009, Internet World Stats estimated that 9.3% of the Sudanese population had access to Internet. If the same figure can be applied to South Sudan, only ca. 700 000 Southern Sudanese would have access to the Internet (figures based on the disputed 2008 Sudanese census). As this 2007 map shows, this estimate is very optimistic.

Internet Connections in Africa (2007)

Who are these new South Sudanese websites for? Are these webpages created and read by the South Sudanese diaspora? 1 to 2 million of them still live in Northern Sudan whereas another 0.5 to 2 million live in other countries.

Or is the Internet presence of South Sudan not for the South Sudanese themselves but for Western journalists, bloggers and analysts eager to convey Internet legitimacy to the country? A new state has to be recognised by the United Nations but has it to be recognised by Internet users?

Can we imagine a world where Google or Bing will provide legitimacy not only to companies but also to independent states?
Unless, I am bringing authority to my own blog by writing about a new independent state.

Vincent Hiribarren

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About perspectivesonafrica

Research and news about Africa
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