The year 2016 saw governments around the world shut down the internet more than 50 times. This happened for various reasons right from containing elections, slowing economies to limiting free speech.
According to a recent Brookings Institute paper, internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion in 2015. The paper states there is a rising trend of governments disrupting the internet.
However, not so known for freedom of speech restriction, this year, India also joined the ranks of countries, that have disrupted internet services, including Uganda, Algeria, and Iraq even over concerns like students cheating on exams.
This growing number of internet disruptions is the causing detrimental implications for economic activity in a number of nations around the world. Economic losses include $968 million in India, $465 million in Saudi Arabia, $320 million in Morocco, $209 million in Iraq, $116 million in Brazil, $72 million in the Republic of the Congo, $69 million in Pakistan, $69 million in Bangladesh, $48 million in Syria, $35 million in Turkey, and $20 million in Algeria, among other places.
An Indian official disclosed the reasons behind these unsettling restrictions as, “considering the sensitive nature of the exam for recruitment of talents, internet service providers have been asked to shut down all internet-based social media services from 9 am to 1 pm to prevent the misuse of mobiles during the exam.” Regional Indian officials also ordered disruptions in response to public security concerns, like conditions in Kashmir and the recurring internet disruptions there
So overall, there were 81 disruptions in 19 countries during this period. This includes 22 in India, 22 in Iraq, 8 in the non-ISIS- controlled parts of Syria, 6 in Pakistan, 3 in Turkey, and 2 each in Bangladesh, Brazil, North Korea, Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Vietnam, among other places.
The report enlists numerous such disruptions around the world. The most notable on shut down of mobile internet services in India was in Rohtak on February 19, 2016. It was in response to street demonstrations in Rohtak and Jhajjar. The disruption lasted more than a week and cost US$190 million. Law enforcement officials explained that “this has been done so that rumours are not spread as this could lead to the situation getting out of hand.”
According to the Brookings paper, these are conservative estimates which only take into account reductions in economic activity and not tax losses or drops in investor confidence.