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Measure the Economic Impact of Internet Shutdowns with the Internet Society Pulse NetLoss Calculator

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Senior Communication and Technology Advisor, Internet Society
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June 28, 2023

Internet shutdowns and deliberate disruptions are on the rise globally. In the first half of the year, we’ve recorded more than 30 shutdown events on the Pulse Internet shutdowns tracker. Driven largely by political and security concerns and misguided attempts to stem the flow of information, disrupted Internet access is becoming a new norm for many – and it’s having a significant effect on countries’ economies and on people’s livelihoods.

The NetLoss Calculator is a new feature we’ve added to the Pulse platform to provide an estimate of the economic outcomes of Internet shutdowns by way of a rigorous methodology.

How to Use the Calculator 

To use the calculator, select the: 

  1. Country that experienced the shutdown 
  2. Start and end dates of the shutdown 
  3. Type of shutdown, whether the Internet for the whole country is shut down or if specific Internet services, such as social media sites, were blocked. 

When you click the Calculate button, you receive a summary of the negative impact the shutdown on the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), unemployment rate, Foreign Direct Investment, and risk of future shutdowns — see the example below (Figure 1) for the Internet shutdown that happened between 7 to 12 May 2023 in Pakistan.

Screenshot of the NetLoss Calculator, showing the impact of the Internet shutdown in Pakistan from 9 to 12 May 2023.
Figure 1 — The NetLoss Calculator shows the impact of the shutdown on various economic indicators, not just GDP.

More Economic Indicators, Reproducible Methodology

Since Internet shutdowns do not occur randomly – they are planned by governments — estimating their impacts on an economy-wide level requires a careful understanding of the context in which they occur.

Unlike other economic impact measuring tools, the NetLoss Calculator uses a reproducible, econometric framework to consider a wider range of economic inputs including:

  • Shutdown data: Internet Society Pulse provides detailed event-level data on government-mandated shutdown events and classifies shutdowns since 2019 as national or regional shutdowns, or service blocking.
  • Protests and civil unrest: The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project provides detailed event-level data on various events since 2016. Each event is classified as belonging to one of five types: (a) battles; (b) protests; (c) riots; (d) strategic developments; or (e) violence against civilians. It also logs the start and end dates for these events and provides details of who the involved parties were and if there were any fatalities associated with the event.
  • Elections: The Constituency-Level Elections Archive maintained by Yale University provides data from elections to the lower chambers for more than 150 countries at the month-year level since 1960.
  • Socioeconomic indicators: World Bank provides data on economic indicators (GDP in USD purchasing-power-parity terms, at current prices), employment (International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates), and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI, as a percentage of GDP as well as net inflows).

In addition to these economic indicators, we also consider other factors that can impact country-specific economic outcomes, such as the rate of inflation (percentage), age dependency ratio (percentage of working 18-65 years old to total population), the fraction of the population residing in urban areas, and the percentage of the labor force with basic education.

Read the NetLoss calculator methodology.

Let Us Know What You Think

If you have any questions or comments about the NetLoss Calculator, please get in touch with the Internet Society Pulse team and check out the Internet shutdown tracker to learn more about Internet shutdown events occurring around the world.