SFLC.in, in association with the Digital Empowerment Foundation, IT for Change, Internet Democracy Project, Centre for Internet and Society, and Foundation for Media Professionals, is organizing a public discussion titled “Access Denied: Internet Shutdowns in a Digital India” on Monday, April 24, 2017 at Hauz Khas Social, 9A & 12, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi. This event will bring together a group of `key stakeholders to discuss the increasingly frequent Internet access disruptions that are imposed by states across India. The discussion will be followed by networking dinner and drinks.

Our Internet Shutdown Tracker has recorded at least 69 separate instances of “Internet shutdowns” across 13 Indian states since 2012, where residents of particular localities were disconnected from the Internet for extended periods of time upon state orders, usually in the stated interest of preventing rumor-driven escalations of prevailing or anticipated conflicts. Besides curtailing fundamental human rights such as the right to free speech and expression, Internet shutdowns disable a range of essential activities that rely on the Internet, such as e-commerce, e-governance, e-health and e-learning.

A 2016 study by the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institute had revealed that India suffered an estimated loss of $968 million during 2015-16 due to Internet shutdowns – the highest figure globally. Internet shutdowns have also been unequivocally condemned by the United Nations through a 2016 Human Rights Council resolution that called upon member states to refrain from such measures. Internet shutdowns assume even greater significance in a country like India, where the Government has been funneling vast resources towards digitization through initiatives like the Digital India program, Aadhaar, and cashless transactions post-demonetization.

Against this backdrop, we hope to hear from key stakeholders about Internet shutdowns as a policy practice, and facilitate a conversation around the idea behind shutdowns, the ground-level implications of frequent access disruptions, and possible solutions to the problem that balance security interests of the state with the need for sustained Internet connectivity. This event will serve as a platform for representatives from the Government, Industry, civil society, and user communities among others to come together to discuss this important issue. If you are interested in participating in this event, please send a line of confirmation to mamta@sflc.in by Friday, April 21, 2017.