How Much Did Internet Shutdowns Cost the World?

The world revolves around the internet.

Yes, yes, not exactly a hot take of the day. However, the sheer automation of almost every real-life appliance combined with our dependence on online media for social interaction, networking, acquisition of working tools, etc. really means that we've created a worldwide lifestyle reliant on the presence of the internet. Which begs the question, what happens in its absence?

A report conducted by the VPN analysis website Top10VPN delves into the overall expenditure the world had to face over the course of 2020 owing to internet blackouts. Collecting data both region-wide and nation-wide, the study's here to tell us the literal cost of our net shutting down on us.

The research was conducted by first localizing shutdowns, noting down duration, and mapping their impact. Information disseminating websites such as Netblocks and Shutdown Tracker proved useful, although other sources were tapped into as well. The costs of shutdowns were identified via data provided by Netblocks and The Internet Society. Regional costs were further calculated by measuring their economic output against the nation's output in GDP. Finally, human rights violations in the area were also noted, due to internet blockage as a way of minimizing communication being implemented in such areas.

Overall, with data compiled from over 27,000 hours of internet blackout, the world experienced a net loss of $4.01 billion. Which is a shockingly large number, even if it depicts a 50% decrease from 2019's $8.05 billion loss. While blackouts lasted longer in 2020 as compared to the last year, they were also highly concentrated in poorer areas and thus resulted in a smaller blow to the economic structure.

First, let's delve into some heavy losses suffered region-wise. Asia leads the pack with its total cost driven up to a disturbing $2,969.2 million, affecting about 10.5 million users over a blackout total period of 17,735 hours. The next region on our list, Europe, experienced a much less hefty loss of $510.3 million. Asia seems to be the only region that broke the $1000 million line, let alone $2000 million. This could, in large part, be due to the region's massive size and populace, combined with its extensive blackout hours. Sub-Sahara Africa, despite featuring many countries less-developed than those in Asia, oversaw a blackout period of a much smaller 6,929 hours. It also saw a net loss of $237.4 million which, while affecting 5 times the users in Asia, is also over 10 times lesser in amount.

South America had the easiest deal of the collective bunch. Seeing a net loss of $2.4 million over 2 hours of total blackout, and affecting 20.5 million users. Even so, just 2 hours of internet deprivation led to a significant loss in GDP.

Ranking by country, India suffered the greatest loss, with a total cost of $2779 million. However, the report goes on to do much more than just state the facts. It further establishes history of human rights abuse which could have contributed to the economic loss. In India's case, their stranglehold over Kashmir was accompanied by a complete deprivation of any and all internet resources, along with other means of outside communication. While the limitations were officially lifted, internet speeds in the area have still been limited to no more than 2G (which is also regarded by the study as a shutdown, due to users being unable to go much more than call or text), to the further detriment of its education and healthcare.

Noting by context, the single most prevalent reason for shutdowns was political repression, resulting in a total cost of $2,767.2 million. Other factors on the list included shutdowns over protests, resulting in a $260.9 million loss, and exams which resulted in a cost of $119.4 million.

In conclusion, the internet is more than just social hangouts or video streaming. For some, it's become their only source of income. During 2020, it was literally the only way students could rely on education. And even delicate changes in its streamlined delivery to the general userbase can steamroll into bigger and more expensive problems. It makes one consider how effectively they're utilizing valuable time online.

Read next: Researchers Conduct Study On How Bad Online Experiences (Including Slow Loading Pages and Multiple Pop-ups) Can Ruin Viewers Health
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