Apr 2017 24

Access Denied: Internet Shutdowns in a Digital India

Hauz Khas Social, New Delhi

This event is organised by SFLC.in, in association with the Digital Empowerment Foundation, IT for Change, the Internet Democracy Project, the Centre for Internet and Society, and the Foundation for Media Professionals. This event will bring together representatives from key stakeholder communities to discuss the spate of state-imposed Internet access disruptions that have been sweeping the nation. The discussion will be followed by networking dinner and drinks.

As per SFLC’s Internet Shutdown Tracker (do check this out), there have been at least 69 separate instances across India since 2012, where residents of entire localities and states were denied Internet access for extended durations of time.

In the Internet age, frequent disruptions of Internet access come at a significant cost. Besides curtailing human rights such as the right to freedom of speech and expression, Internet shutdowns also cripple activities like e‑commerce, e‑governance, e‑health and e‑learning, which are entirely reliant on the Internet. These problems are compounded even further when contrasted with India’s ambitions of becoming a digitally empowered society, as reflected in initiatives like the Digital India program, Aadhaar, and the push for cashless transactions post-demonetization.

With the upcoming discussion, we hope to hear from key stakeholders about the institution of 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.