401 internet cafés registered in Ivory Coast

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, Ivory Coast

A total of 401 internet cafés are currently officially registered in Ivory Coast, according to the regulator’s updated report released last week.

The Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications de Cote d’Ivoire (ARTCI) has, since mid-June this year, been calling on the owners and managers of internet cafés – known here as cyber café – to register their businesses online for free by logging on its website, or coming personally to their offices in Marcory, Abidjan.

And by 10 December 2014, ARTCI said only 401 outlets have responded to this call. Most of these businesses are located in the commercial capital Abidjan, the report shows.

The government said that the operation aims at preventing the proliferation of white-collar crime and combating cyber-criminality in the country, which appears to have reached alarming rates.

“I think the government is right to undertake such an operation though I doubt very much how this is going to eradicate online crime,” Jean-Marie Koné said.

Ivory Coast, also known as ‘Little France’ by its neighbours, has been invaded by brouteurs coming from all over the region. 

Some residents in Abidjan have described them as flashy cyber-criminals who spend several hours at internet cafés searching for online victims to rob.

Last year, the brouteurs operating from Ivory Coast stole about US$10 million, according to police figures.

The state is hoping that the registration of these outlets would help identify these ‘crooks’ and bring them to justice.

But some owners and managers have branded this registration ‘unfair’, saying it could be more than about combating cyber-crime.

“I suspect that the state has a hidden agenda about internet cafés. I’m not sure what is it but I heard they want to impose higher taxes and toughen the law to make it difficult to open an internet café,”one owner said on condition of anonymity.

While some observers have noted that this could be the first of its kind in West Africa, some observers believe registering them was not enough to curb online crime.

“We need an internet police, some sort of well-trained security agents who will operate undercover to patrol these outlets, and perhaps catch them red-handed,” Delphine Kouamé said. 

Though the deadline to register their businesses was on 30 November 2014, the regulator continues to plead with internet cafés owners to come forward and do the right thing.

Internet cafés that will not be registered will simply be closed, the regulator insisted, without elaborating on the new cut-off date.

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