India imposed the highest number of internet shutdowns in 2020, according to a comparative global analysis published by digital rights group Access Now.
Of the 155 internet shutdowns that were imposed globally, India accounted for 109, according to the report, which added that this was the third consecutive year that New Delhi had topped the global charts on this issue.
The countries that imposed the second and third highest number of shutdowns were Yemen (six) and Ethiopia (four).
“The [Indian, central and state] government shut down the internet at least 109 times. While this figure is lower than the totals in the previous two years, India had instituted what had become a perpetual, punitive shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir beginning in August 2019. Residents in these states had previously experienced frequent periodic shutdowns, and in 2020 they were deprived of reliable, secure, open, and accessible internet on an ongoing basis,” the report notes.
“There were also shutdowns in India for other reasons in 2020, and these may be ripe for challenge. Notably, in West Bengal, the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education and the state government’s Home Department previously introduced a curfew-style internet blackout during the Madhyamik (secondary school) examinations, cutting off internet access every day during certain hours. This internet curfew lasted for more than nine days.”
According to Access Now, in 2020, there were 28 complete internet blackouts that plunged people, often the most marginalised, into digital darkness, as authorities disabled both broadband and mobile connectivity.
“Governments in Yemen, Ethiopia, India, Belarus, Guinea, Algeria, Pakistan, Jordan, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Syria, Tanzania, Iran, and Jordan entirely cut off at least one city. Ethiopia imposed at least four complete internet outages in 2020. One of the four was a nationwide internet shutdown that lasted for more than two weeks and affected more than 100 million people,19 while the rest were regional shutdowns that were more restricted in scope,” the report noted.
Length versus disruption
While overall disruptions in global internet connectivity fell last year to 155 from 213 that were recorded in 2019, the shutdowns lasted longer according to separate research put out by ‘Top10VPN’.
“27,165 hours [was the] total duration of major disruptions around the world, up 49% from the previous year,” the group noted, in a report that it put out recently.
“As in previous years, India continued to restrict internet access more than any other country… The majority of these short blackouts were highly-targeted, affecting groups of villages or individual city districts and so were not included in this report, which focuses on larger region-wide shutdowns. The true economic cost is therefore likely to be even higher than the $2.8BN we have calculated.”
Featured image: Graphic adapted from a Reuters photo