India lost over $1.3 billion in internet shutdowns across the country — lasting 4,196 hours in 2019 — making it the third-most economically affected country after Iraq and Sudan, says a new study.
The report, titled The Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns, in 2019 by internet research firm Top10VPN, worked on calculating the data in major regions of the world using the COST tool. The tool was developed by internet monitoring NGO Netblocks and advocacy group The Internet Society, and uses indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat, and US Census.
The total cost of internet shutdowns across the world, according to the report, stood at $8.05 billion in 2019, an increase of 235 per cent since 2015-16.
The report also looked at data collated by not-for-profit legal services organisation Software Freedom Law Foundation. Its internet shutdown tracker for India calculated 106 shutdowns in 2019.
“India imposes internet restrictions more often than any other country, with over 100 shutdowns documented in 2019,” said Samuel Woodhams and Simon Migliano, authors of the report. “As they tend to be highly targeted — even down to the level of blacking out individual city districts for a few hours while security forces try to restore order — many of these incidents have not been included in this report, which instead focused on larger region-wide shutdowns. The full economic impact is, therefore, likely to be higher even than our $1.3 billion figure,” they added.
An April 2018 report by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (Icrier) estimated the economic impact of internet shutdowns in India from 2012-17 at $3.04 billion, and the overall number of hours of shutdown worked to 16,315 hours.
It has been reported globally that the internet shutdown in Kashmir, which was imposed on 4 August, is the longest-ever internet block imposed by any country. It has now been over 158 days and counting, since internet access was cut off in Kashmir.
“The most significant disruptions have been in the turbulent Kashmir region, where after intermittent shutdowns in the first half of the year, access has been blocked since August, with no end to restrictions in sight,” the report noted.
In contrast, Iraq — which suffered the highest economic impact from internet shutdowns, was hit by $2.3 billion and 209 hours of blackouts.
The most significant internet blackouts were in October amid anti-government protests due to rising unemployment, failing public services and corruption, the Top10VPN report said.
Sudan suffered the second highest impact at $1.87 billion, and 864 hours of blackouts.
Countries across the world also put blocks selectively on specific online platforms. WhatsApp was the platform that saw the highest number of shutdowns globally at 6,236 hours. Facebook was second, blocked globally for 6,208 hours, followed by Instagram (6,193 hours), Twitter (5,860 hours) and YouTube (684 hours).