Shutting down the internet is becoming a trendy strategy in the autocrat’s handbook. A new article in he Indian Express by Gourav Vallabh examines how India’s own internet shutdowns damage democracy. Here is an excerpt:
Most of the activities that started as pen-paper exercises have now turned digital. From operations of small businesses to meetings, from food delivery to banking, there is some digital touch in everyone’s life. Who would have imagined, even two decades ago, that even media houses would be glued to Twitter accounts of Presidents for major announcements? I strongly believe that the element of digital has provided a platform to millions who feel more valued and more heard. I was surprised to discover that there is a term for the fear of being without a mobile device: nomophobia. There was even a joke doing rounds on social media as COVID-19 brought the world to a sudden halt: “Who brought the digital transformation in your organization?” The answer was not the CEO or the CTO but COVID-19.
With the advent of COVID-19, we were forced to embrace activities or events that we never imagined could happen digitally. From doorstep banking to 8-year-old kids attending classes, it was the internet that helped us continue with our lives.
The current BJP government will have the distinction of being in power when both digital penetration and curtailment of the internet was on the rise. According to analysis by Software Freedom Law Centre, from an average of five internet shutdowns between 2012 and 2014, the number of internet shutdowns reached 134 in 2018 and 93 in 2019. According to the Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns report released by Top10VPN, internet shutdowns cost $4 Billion globally in 2020 alone with India’s share a whopping 70 per cent ($2.8 billion). The same organisation had calculated the costs for India for 2019 to be $1.3 billion.
Read the full story here.