Report by defyhatenow & Center for Strategic and Policy Studies. August 2021.
This report broadly provides an analysis of the relationship between conflict and connectivity in South Sudan as it has evolved with major socio-political events in the country from 2013 to 2019. Particularly, it focuses on people’s access to public information and how they communicate with each other during conflict and in the absence of conflict paying special attention to the accessibility, affordability, and availability of mobile phone and Internet networks to the South Sudanese people.
There are five key factors, from this analysis, that collectively determine and shape the nature of conflict and connectivity in South Sudan. These factors include infrastructure, population density, fluctuating economy, third party interference and digital media. To fully understand the interaction of conflict and connectivity, it is imperative to look at these factors comprehensively to devise practical and effective action points. This report, therefore, articulates various connections and relationships among these factors and demonstrates how they collectively shape conflict and connectivity in South Sudan.
This analysis is informed by digital ethnography, focus groups and interviews with key people and organizations in South Sudan. The participants are drawn form selected regions of Central Equatoria (Juba and Yei), Upper Nile (Malakal) in South Sudan, and Rhino Refugee Settlement (Arua) in Uganda. This methodological approach is used strategically to capture the diversity of South Sudanese people and to enrich the study in breadth and depth.
Key findings highlight the complexity that arises at the nexus of digital technologies and conflict in South Sudan. For instance, infrastructure has a double-edged impact on conflict; it contributes to the escalation and de-escalation of conflict. Good infrastructure enhances communication and mobility during conflict with both positive and negative effects as it serves warrying parties indiscriminately.1 It also enhances humanitarian interventions and contributes to a faster reconstruction after conflict by facilitating access to critical services such as health care. Further, access to digital media platforms also has both positive and negative effects; it expands the civic space while simultaneously creating challenges related to surveillance, hate speech, misinformation, and fake news.