With 8,927 hours of internet curbs, India topped a list of 21 countries that curbed the web access of its citizens.
These shutdowns led to a global loss over $4 billion. India accounted for three-fourth of this global loss.
An internet shutdown is 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 globally, major disruptions to internet access lasted 50 per cent longer in 2020 than they did the year before.
However, they were mainly concentrated in poorer regions and therefore resulted in a lower overall economic impact.
India and Myanmar experienced the longest shutdowns for the second year running, with restrictions originally imposed in 2019 continuing throughout 2020.
India’s losses more than doubled
Internet curbs in India continued to be higher than any other country. In 2019, the country had imposed an internet shutdown of 4,196 hours, impacting about 8.4 million people. The total loss amounted to nearly $1.3 billion.
However, this amount more than doubled in the last one year with India imposing 75 times more curbs in 2020.
The report noted that the economic impact is likely to be higher given that only large region-wise blackouts were taken into account. The smaller and more localised ones were kept out of its ambit as it constituted groups of villages or individual city districts.
Even though bandwidth restrictions were revoked in Kashmir after seven months, it suffered the costliest disruption.
However, authorities continued to severely throttle internet speeds, with citizens only able to access 2G connections. This majorly affected access for medicines, businesses and schools for the local people.
Global impact of shutdowns
At 27,165 hours, major internet disruptions recorded worldwide during the year were higher by 49 per cent, compared to the previous year and affected 268 million people, according to the report.
After India, Belarus suffered the most economically. The country restricted internet access for close to 218 hours, thereby affecting 7.9 million people in the country.
The loss of $336.4 million can be largely attributed to protests after a controversial presidential election in the country.
An undersea cable damage reduced Yemen’s internet capacity by 80 per cent leading to a loss of $237 million.
Meanwhile, continued restrictions in Chin and Rakhine regions of Myanmar led to an internet blackout till early August. This led to a loss of 5,160 hours, amounting to 189.9 million.
Major reasons for internet shutdown
The report noted that about 42 per cent of the shutdowns were associated with additional human rights abuses including restrictions on freedom of assembly, election interference and infringements on freedom of the press.