New Delhi: With the government ordering frequent internet shutdowns, approximately $3.04 billion has been lost due to interrupted economic activity as India faced around 16,315 hours of internet shutdown during 2012-2017, a report released by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) said on Wednesday.

The report titled The Anatomy of an Internet Blackout: Measuring the Economic Impact of Internet Shutdowns in India focuses on the economic impact internet shutdowns in the last five years.

As of September 2017, 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 shutdown increased by only 20%, said the report.

“There have been 12,615 hours of mobile internet shutdowns in India costing the economy approximately $2.37 billion during the period 2012 to 2017 and around 3,700 hours of mobile and fixed line internet shutdowns costing the economy approximately $678.4 million during the same period," said the report.

An internet shutdown is an intentional and complete disruption of fixed-line, or, mobile internet, ordered pursuant to the authority of the state, that renders the internet inaccessible or unusable for a specific population.

India has witnessed mobile-only and mobile plus fixed-line internet shutdowns. Recent experience suggests a trend of targeted mobile-only internet shutdowns, it added.

According to the report, 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.

It highlights that provocative messaging on social media and instant messaging platforms are the primary reasons driving internet shutdowns. It also said that such shutdowns affect smaller businesses relatively more than larger businesses that are able to find alternatives.

“Businesses such as e-commerce suffer most during shutdowns along with online freelancers who operate out of small towns and are completely dependent on a functioning internet," it said.

The findings of the report are based on field interactions with concerned stakeholders (government, business and society) in 7 out of 18 states affected by shutdowns during the last 5 years.

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