India suffered economic losses to the tune of $2.8 billion (Rs 20,474 crore approximately) due to internet shutdowns in 2020, according to a report released by a United Kingdom-based digital privacy firm Top10VPN.
The report put India at the top of the list of 21 countries that restricted their citizens’ access to internet in 2020. It added that India saw 8,927 hours of internet blackout or restricted bandwidth access. Myanmar, Yemen, Ethiopia, Turkey, and Syria were among the countries included in the report.
The firm said that India accounted for three-fourths of global economic losses due to the internet shutdown, which it estimated at $4 billion (Rs 29,245 crore approximately).
The report specifically spoke about internet restrictions imposed by the government in Jammu and Kashmir, after it abrogated the erstwhile state’s special status under Article 370 in August last year. “In Kashmir, authorities lifted restrictions in March 2020, seven months on from a controversial decision made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to strip India’s only Muslim-majority region of its autonomy,” the report said. “However, after the restrictions were lifted authorities continued to severely throttle internet speeds, with citizens only able to access 2G connections.”
The report added that internet restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir adversely affected businesses, schools and the distribution of medicine.
Top10VPN’s report defined internet shutdown as “an intentional disruption of internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a specific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information.”
The report said that the world witnessed 93 major shutdowns during 2020. The economic cost of the shutdown, however, was down by 50% from 2019.
In October, Democracy watchdog Freedom House’s report had shown that internet freedom in India declined for a third straight year in 2019-’20. The period from June 1, 2019 to May 30, 2020 was under consideration. The watchdog said India had the most number of internet shutdowns in the world, even excluding the ones in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.