Impact study of Internet Shutdowns

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In this blog, we are going to discuss our project work in the Computational Social Science field. We have studied the impact of the internet shutdown and tried to quantify the loss incurred by different sectors.

Worldwide, Internet shutdowns are typically used when there is civil unrest, in order to block the flow of information about government actions or to end communication among activists and prevent the spread of rumors and fake news. However, it is observed that the different state governments have started imposing internet bans to stop exam cheating and paper leaks. Few of the reported bans in Rajasthan are during Constable Recruitment exams, Patwari exams, and Teachers’ Recruitment exams (REET).

Why this project is important to study?

  • Since the internet is being used by most portions of society, any policy regarding the internet will affect society directly or indirectly.
  • With this project, we are trying to get statistics on all related data and do a study on challenges faced by people due to Internet bans.
  • Study results can be further used by Policymakers before taking such decisions.

Data Collection Strategy –

We have narrowed down our study to one particular district – Bikaner (Rajasthan) as it was very tough to collect the data from a larger population. Our study can be further extrapolated to other parts of India based on its population and other factors. We have collected relevant data through survey forms from different sections of society and have done a comparative study of Internet Ban imposed by the Government during recruitment exams is good/bad move. Also, we have tried to estimate the overall revenue loss per day (including all sectors) due to the internet shutdown in one district – Bikaner (Rajasthan). We have gathered data from the below sectors for our study and collected a few national statistics (freely available on the web) to get some assumptions while estimating per day revenue loss.

  • Education Sector
    • Students reliant on online education
    • Students participated in recruitment exams in past to understand the challenges faced by the government like paper leaks, online cheating, etc.
  • Businesses reliant on Internet – Aim is to quantify Revenue Loss by gathering data from different businesses dependent on the Internet like – Digital Marketing Agency, Shops that accept digital payment, Online Cab businesses, food delivery apps

Target Sample Population for computing approx. revenue loss –

  • Stores/Cafe/cab operators accepting digital payments or reliant internet
  • Digital Marketing Agencies
  • Random 50 people doing digital transactions

Most of these data are collected through online survey forms and a few of them were collected through offline survey forms manually. Also, we talked to a few people from digital marketing domains to get some insights while creating survey questions.

Survey 1 Highlights:

The first survey was done on students who are reliant on the internet. Conclusion based on data collected –

  • 88% of students who participated in the survey are Graduate or Post Graduate students.
  • 87% of them are dependent on the Internet for their study.
  • 77% of those 87% (who are dependent on the internet) don’t have access to offline lectures/videos
  • 90% of the students spend more than 1 hour on the online study.
  • 30% of the students spend more than 3 hours & 30% of students spend more than 5 hours on the internet for study.

As per stats, 18% of the Indian population goes to Schools, Colleges, or Universities.

Urban Population of Bikaner = 8 lakh (Approx. in 2022).

So, approximately 1.4 Lakh students are getting impacted by Internet Shutdown in Bikaner.

To quantify the loss incurred to students due to the internet shutdown, we are considering a few features like Average time spent by Students on Internet, per hour wage in India, and Student population in Bikaner.

Average time spent on the Internet for Study purposes = 3 hours (from the above survey result)

Per hour wage in India = INR 96

Student Population in Bikaner = 1.4 Lakh

Approx. Revenue Loss = 3 x 96 x 1.4 Lakh = INR 4 Crore

Hence, we can approximate that Bikaner is incurring a revenue loss of INR 4 Crore for one day of Internet shutdown

Survey 2 Highlights:

  • 83% of people say that an internet ban can’t prevent exam cheating on their last exam.
  • People claim that the internet ban has caused them problems such as finding an exam center, payment troubles, booking bus and train tickets, and not being able to access online documents.
  • Bluetooth is the primary method of cheating through various devices, according to 77% of people. People utilize small size Bluetooth gadgets, and some people use a variety of devices that they can fit in their shoes. The fundamental reason is that the government has made no provision for jamming Bluetooth devices.
  • During the internet ban, 47 percent of participants say that cheating occurred in their previous three exams out of three, 26 percent believe that cheating occurred in their previous two exams out of three, and 15% agree that cheating occurred in their previous one exam out of three.

Survey 3 highlights:

With the help of a few students, we took a manual survey from a few shopkeepers, and cafe/restaurants owners. Here are some survey results and also, we are trying to approximate the revenue loss this sector is making due to the internet shutdown.

  • There is an increase in the use of printed currency during internet lockdown and we noticed that a greater number of people visit cafés/restaurants and offline stores during the days of the internet ban.
  • According to the data collected 30-40% of the merchants said to have got their supplies late or there was an issue in getting the supplies.

Approximating revenue loss –

The current population of India is 1391.99 million and the population of Bikaner is 802,188.

The no. of online food orders in Zomato in the first half of the financial year of 2021 is 214 million in India. That is 1.169 million orders per day and would reach about 3-4 million orders per day in the peak period.

The approximate number of Zomato orders per day in Bikaner is about 1000 orders per day.

The number of online transactions per day reached an astonishing height of 80 million transactions per day this year and this was directly doubled in number compared to last year and the amount of money reached the volume of about 3-4trillon per day and a maximum of 5trillion in a day.

The approximate number of online transactions per day in Bikaner is (80 * 0.802)/1391.99 million = 0.045977342 million = 45,977 transactions per day.

So, the approximate revenue loss per day in Bikaner because of online transactions that can’t be done due to the shutdown of the internet is about INR 20.11 lakhs.

Assumption – We are only considering Zomato orders’ data in our calculation.

Survey 4 Highlights:

Based on a few telephonic interviews with people working in Digital Marketing Domain and our own research, we have made out below conclusion –

  • Total ad spend across businesses in India is estimated as INR 1 Lakh Crore, which accounts for 45% of India’s total ad spend, so Businesses, as well as marketing agencies, are heavily dependent on the Internet to increase their sales figure.
  • Companies/Businesses spend 20-50% of their total advertisement budget digitally where the percentage amount depends on their nature of business.
  • Stopping a digital ad for a week results in a direct decline of 5-50% of their current and next few weeks’ sales. One day of internet shut down could cost an average advertiser an amount in the range of ₹ 100 to ₹ 7000
  • The most important time for digital marketing is 6 AM to 10 AM, and 4 PM to 11 PM. Rajasthan government is banning internet from 6 AM to 6 PM which will impact most of the revenue generated in the day.

Approximating Revenue loss in the Digital Ads sector :

India’s estimated ads spend is ₹1 lakh crore in 2022, out of which 45% of the spend is done via digital advertisement.

Indian urban population stands at 48 crores whereas Bikaner’s urban population is 8 lakhs.

So, Bikaner’s average digital ads spend would be (0.45 Lakh Crore * 8 Lakh) / 48 crores i.e., 76 crores for 1 year. Hence, one day of revenue loss to the advertisement sector due to the internet shutdown would be approx. ₹ 20.5 lakh.

Assumption:  We are making an assumption that Digital ad spending is happening only in Urban parts of India.

Our key takeaways from this study are :

  • State/District incurs huge revenue losses in various sectors that directly affect their economy.
  • Apart from revenue loss, people face different difficulties/challenges which affects their day-to-day life.
  • Paper leaks news still comes even government imposes an Internet Shutdown during exams, so the government may need to find out the root cause and implement the alternative solutions across the state.


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