Despite the Indian Government incessantly pushing the agenda of creating a ‘Digital India’ wherein all citizens are encouraged to go cashless, a recent study revealed a grim truth about the country.
According to UK-based Top10VPN’s report titled Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns, the internet shutdowns in 2020 cost India $2,779.3 million. This makes India the worst impacted country among the entire list of 21 countries that also restricted their citizen’s internet access during the previous year.
The report showed that India restricted a whopping 8,927 hours of bandwidth access out of which 1,655 hours were absolute blackout while 7,272 hours included bandwidth throttling and social media shutdowns.
According to Top10VPN, the primary reason for India ranking at the highest when it comes to the cost of internet shutdowns is the restrictions which were placed in Kashmir from 2019 continuing all the way through 2020. That led to disruptions in many business activities, access to schools, medicines and so on.
In current times, internet shutdowns are not merely the absence of being able to get on social media platforms but it has grown to have far more wide-reaching impact. Presently, sectors such as banking, tourism, education, healthcare, travel and so on are all heavily dependent on internet services to function and without them, the day-to-day functioning of an average consumer can get easily crippled.
The report added that Indian authorities often justify internet shutdowns by stating that it is a necessary tool which helps the country maintain its sovereignty and integrity in the face of perilous times.
To the calculate of the cost impact, Top10VPN looked at indicators from various indicators from bodies such as the International Telecommunication Union, the World Bank, and Software Freedom Law Center which is in Delhi.
Note here that the report also stated that the true economic cost can even higher as a major portion of the short-lived blackouts were highly targeted blackouts and affected particular groups of villages and individual city districts and therefore not included from the study.
As a whole, the entire global cost of internet shutdowns amounted to $4.01 billion due to a total of 27,165 hours of internet shutdown out of which India alone contributed to a third of it.
After India, Belarus came a distant second on the list with 218 hours of blackouts which led to the country losing $336.4 million. Belarus blackouts were majorly attributed to its controversial presidential election.
Myanmar grabbed the third position in the report as it recorded over a whopping 5,160 hours of blackouts in the Chin and Rakhine regions followed by Yemen which lost $237 million to 912 hours due to internet disruptions.
The report added that countries such as China and North Korea were left out of the report as not much of publicly available open-source information was available in case of these countries.
All in all, 2020 proved to be the worst year when it came to internet shutdowns by recording a total of 27,165 hours of major connectivity disruptions and a 49% leap compared to 2019.
That being said, the only upside which the report highlighted is that a 50% decrease in impact was observed when compared to 2019 wherein over $8.05 billion was lost globally due to internet shutdowns.