2019 saw an increasing awareness about internet shutdowns in the Indian population due to unprecedented first-hand experience with the phenomenon, especially in the last month of the year. According to a new report by Top10VPN, India was the 3rd worst economically affected nation by internet shutdowns in 2019.
Internet Shutdown in India
The first major shutdown took place on August 5th in Kashmir after the sudden abrogation of Article 370. Along with internet suspension, the region’s mobile services were also suspended, cutting it off entirely from the rest of the world. The Kashmir shutdown became the longest ever in the history of democratic countries, and is still in effect, almost 5 months later, with services very slowly being restored now.
The next biggest ban was imposed in Assam in December, which lasted for 10 days, following widespread protests in the state against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
UP’s bans come in third, where amid unsettling unrest and fear among citizens, internet and mobile services were cut off in several districts, isolating people from any form of communication.
Apart from these bans, all major metropolitans, including Delhi saw district-specific bans, some of which lasted for over a day or two.
India Lost $1.3 Billion Due to Internet Bans
The report looks at the global economic impact of internet shutdowns all over the world, as well as estimates the impact specific to each country.
The study saw the emergence of several patterns closely related to internet shutdowns, i.e., civil unrest, protests, election, and authoritarianism by the state.
The total volume of documented and undocumented shutdowns in 2019 surpassed the previous year’s figures.
The internet was shut down for a total of 18,000 hours all over the world in 2019 and its economic impact is estimated to be $8.05 billion, a 235% increase from just 5 years ago.
The economic impact of internet shutdowns was one of the worst in India, which came in third after Iraq and Sudan. The report claims India lost approximately $1.3 billion in 2019 due to internet bans, stating that the real impact may very well exceed this estimate.
India’s internet shutdowns come around to a shocking 4196 hours in total, making its internet bans the third-longest in 2019. For some perspective, most other internet bans remained in the lower to mid 3 digits, in terms of hours.
Economic Impact of Shutdowns in India
With this report, the economic impact of internet shutdowns on the country’s economy has now become an internationally acknowledged fact.
Recently, the volume of online transactions in the Indian subcontinent contracted significantly.
India’s GDP is expected to drop to 5% in 2020, according to the World Bank. This marks the slowest growth rate in 11 years.
December 2019 saw a 7% inflation in the prices of various goods.
A report by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries revealed the loss of 5 lakh jobs and Rs. 1800 crores due to the internet blockade in the region.
In very simple terms, internet shutdowns adversely affect economic activities in this day and age of digitization. All industries rely on the internet for resources, placing and taking orders, and communicating with their customers. The UN in 2016 declared access to the internet as a fundamental human right, making its revocation a human rights violation, as per international standards. Economic impact, thus, covers one aspect of the human rights violations perpetrated by internet blockades.