Internet shutdowns caused loss of $3.04 billion (approx Rs 87,000 crore) to India, suggested a report about economic impact due to internet shutdowns between 2012-2017, by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).

In its report, The Anatomy of an Internet Blackout: Measuring the Economic Impact of Internet Shutdowns in India, ICRIER defines internet shutdowns as an intentional and complete disruption of fixed-line or mobile internet ordered by the authorities or the government. Another crowdsourced defination it used in the report is, “Internet shutdown is an intentional disruption of Internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a pecific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information.

The Shutdown Tracker Optimisation Project (STOP) run by the civil society organization Access Now reported in September 2017, that India with 54 shutdowns had topped the list of 30 countries that witnessed shutdowns in the preceding 21 months. In 2017, the number of Internet shutdowns in India more than doubled from 2016, while the total hours of the shutdown increased by only 20% (Read: MediaNama’s coverage on Internet Shutdowns here).

See the Internet shutdown trend graph below:

The findings of the report are based on the field interactions with government, business and society in 7 out of shutdown-affected 18 states. Following are some key findings of economic impact due to internet shutdowns between 2012-2017: 

    • 16315 hours (close to 680 days or rather close to two years of hours) of Internet shutdown in India cost the economy approximately $3.04 billion in last five years.
    • 12615 hours of mobile Internet shutdowns in India cost the economy approximately $2.37 billion
    • A total of 3700 hours of mobile and fixed-line Internet shutdowns in India cost approximately $678.4 million during the same duration of five years.
    • India has witnessed mobile-only and mobile plus fixed-line internet shutdowns. Recent experience suggests a trend of targeted mobile-only internet shutdowns.
    • Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal and Bihar are the states to have seen the maximum duration of shutdowns over the period 2012 and 2017.
    • In India, the escalating number of shutdowns has not gone unnoticed. By 2016, India was topping the global charts on the number of Internet shutdowns. Shutdowns in India are mostly ordered under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code or Section 5 of the Telegraph Act. The use of shutdowns as an instrument to control the law and order situations was challenged in the High Court of Gujarat. The High Court dismissed the petition ruling in favour of the state’s powers, as did the Supreme Court of India, not allowing an appeal and agreeing that “it sometimes becomes necessary for law and order.
    • Reasons of shutdowns: In anticipation of, and to prevent further escalation of, law and order situations. In several cases, rumour-mongering or provocative messaging on social media and instant messaging platforms had driven decisions to order Internet shutdowns
    • Impacts on various sectors: Based on the field interaction in sever states, the report reads that Internet-dependent sectors such as E-commerce, press, media, freelancers, IT services, tourism companies were affected the most during blackouts. Apart from these sectors, small businesses, local shops, schools, hospitals and numerous other sectors felt significant impacts.
    • The study highlighted that currently apart from crowd-sourced data maintained by civil society organizations and media reports, there is no public record or documentation of Internet shutdowns across the country. While the new rules prescribe internal communications and review, there is no mechanism for maintaining a public record of Internet shutdowns. (Ministry of Communications, on August 7th, 2017, issued rules for shutting of telecom services – and by extension, the shutting down of Internet services in India.)

Read our coverage from the open house discussion on Internet shutdowns here: