The Massive Cost of Government Internet Shutdowns Revealed

Internet shutdowns are often used by an authoritarian government for the purposes of stifling free speech. Another reason for access to the internet being curbed could be restricting the spreading of information, but whatever the case may be, these incidents have started to become increasingly commonplace as of late.

The Egyptian and Turkish governments have both been responsible for internet shutdowns in 2011 and 2016 respectively. In the case of Egypt, this was done to prevent a revolution from fomenting, and in Turkey it was part of a failed military coup. With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that India is the worst offender when it comes to government shutdowns, especially when protests in Kashmir and Rajasthan began erupting.

In 2023 alone, the internet was shut down for around 8,000 hours per person, and ended up affecting 59 million people in the South Asian nation. According to Top10 VPN, this was the highest number seen by any country with all things having been considered and taken into account. This comes up to 470 billion user hours worth of internet shutdowns.

Myanmar, Ethiopia and Iran were all vying for second place in 2023, with 444.8 billion, 444.3 billion, and 442.8 billion user hours respectively. Russia and Tanzania were also quite high up in this list, with the Putin led government blocking 152.9 billion user hours and Tanzania blocking 107.5 billion.
What’s clear from looking at this data is that there has been a sharp uptick in the number of shutdowns occurring all around the world. Not only does this result in people not being able to access the internet, which is a basic utility without a shadow of a doubt, it also comes with a steep cost that is only recently starting to become apparent.

Russia is a prime example of this, since even though it ranked lower than a few other countries in terms of total user hours blocked, it ranked highest in terms of people affected at 113 million. This led to an estimated $4 billion in lost economic activity, which is by far the highest total seen around the world in 2023.

Ethiopia lost $1.59 billion due to its internet shutdowns, which is quite high when you consider that the entire GDP of this African nation is a little over $111 billion. The same can be said for Myanmar, which lost $974 million in economic activity, with the number being $920 million for Iran. India lost $585 million, whereas neighboring Pakistan lost $238 billion due to the restrictions placed on the internet.

Based on data provided by Top10 VPN, there have been 609 major shutdowns since 2019 across 56 countries. The total cost of these shutdowns is estimated to be a staggering $52.96 billion. In 2023, there were 196 shutdowns across 25 countries, and the economic cost was estimated to be $9.13 billion. This tallied up to just under 80,000 hours, or 79,238 to be precise, which was an 18% uptick from 2022.

It seems like only yesterday that 2024 began, and yet the year has already gone down a dark path in this record. 33 shutdowns across 15 countries have been recorded in this year alone, costing these nations $1.53 billion. It will be interesting to see where things go from here on out, since the trend is clearly moving in the wrong direction and it’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

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