ROME -- The Algerian government has ordered the complete shutdown of the internet to prevent any cheating on its annual high school exams.
The country’s 40 million citizens, along with its numerous multinational companies, will all be affected by the order.
The exams begin this week.
For several hours each day, while students are taking end-of-year tests, all of Algeria will be shut off from the world wide web in an effort to prevent a repeat of widespread cheating in 2016, when the questions were leaked in advance.
In addition to the cyber control efforts, some of the nearly 2,000 testing centers will also have metal detectors set up to stop any students from bringing internet-capable devices that can be used to help answer questions. Jamming stations and security cameras have also been installed in certain locations.
According to the Algerian Press Service, 709,448 students nationwide will take the final test, which determines whether they will receive the equivalent of a high school diploma in the United States.
The Minister of Education, Nouria Beghanbrit, posted a message to students on her Facebook page before the service was suspended, encouraging students to “reject all behaviors that would undermine their efforts for success.”
In 2016, the final exam questions were leaked online before the test took place, putting the results of thousands in question. The government then tried to limit only social media sites in 2017 but found that cheating was still occurring.
That prompted the crackdown this year. The government -- which requested that local internet providers take the extraordinary step of a complete shutdown -- has demanded the internet be off for the morning hours of the five days the students sit for their exams.
It will also limit access to social media in an effort to prevent online discussions about the test.
Alergie Telecom, the nation’s public internet operator, confirmed in a statement that the services were cut “in compliance with instructions from the government, aimed at ensuring the high school diploma tests run smoothly.”
Twitter users posted stories under the hashtag #AlgeriaBlackout to debate whether the shutdown was necessary.
Algeria is not the first country to order a shutdown on its internet. India, which has blocked internet access during times of social unrest, has also blocked internet regionally during school exams, and Ethiopia took a similar action after some of its test questions were leaked in 2016.