Internet As Technology

Aamir Bashir

In the era of technology entire world is keeping itself in line with the technological development that has revolutionized modern life. One of the blessings of modern technology is internet that has changed the way of life in several respects ranging from interacting with near and dear ones virtually to run businesses online. Modern life has become dependent on internet in several ways and the Internet as a whole can be seen as technology that has greatly enhanced our lives. The internet can let a person to communicate with people in virtually any part of the world through the internet or e-mail, without leaving his room. Online Shopping, Online Banking, The Internet of Things (IoT), Electronic Communications, Treasure of knowledge, Means of entertainment, Mentoring students are some advantages of internet.
Role/potential of internet in India, Tool of good governance: Internet technology in India can be harnessed to promote the ideas of good governance; recently Delhi government initiative to make public services available at the door step is an example of harnessing the potential of e- governance.
Digital India: The initiative digital India and smart cities initiative of India are totally dependent on internet for success. Potential to Reduces dislocation and migration too are dependent on internet facilities. The cases of dislocation and migration come mostly from rural localities. If the rural areas are developed and offered employment via Internet connectivity, global communications and increased income, then there would be lesser cases of migration and dislocation by natives. Regional development due to increasing technological advancement offers a sense of recognition to a place. It becomes a society of aware citizens having an understanding of their rights and responsibilities. The banking system, transportation, education and almost every sector is impacted with this progression as the services become better. And this way, the entire region flourishes as a whole. Literacy rate hike witnessed due to the online teaching facility is empowering people educationally. The Internet brings with it the option of spreading education in a widespread way without the constraints of distance. In rural areas where schools can be at quite a distance, thus, the Internet can help increase literacy rate of rural areas. Even for agricultural assistance an internet service offers farmers an opportunity to gain an intricate understanding of their own business and also the ways in which they can improve their yield. It is a prominent initiative to reduce exploitation and offer guidance in terms of market prices and interaction with direct consumers. For community development the exposure to awareness and rationale can help individuals to make better decisions. It can be an excellent medium to annihilate myths associated with girls, evil eye, etc. The welfare level of internet service also becomes very high.
Internet shutdown in India: The UNESCO report defines internet shutdowns as “any intentional disruption of the broadband or mobile internet or internet-based mobile apps, by an order of the authorities or threat of non-state party, to control communication or online content or slowing down the access to general public”. In practice, Internet shutdowns usually fall under two main categories: 1. A total shutdown or blackout where all services on the Internet are blocked off, targeting mobile Internet access and/or fixed lines, such that users in a country or region are not able to access the Internet.
2. A partial shutdown, where content blocking techniques are applied to restrict access to websites or applications, very often to block people from communicating or sharing information amongst them
India witnessed highest number of Internet shutdowns in 2017-18: As per UNESCO report people in South Asian countries experienced at least 97 instances of Internet shutdown , a barometer on freedom of press and expression, between May 2017 and April 2018, with India alone accounting for 82 such cases, according to a UNESCO report. Internet shutdown and deliberate slowdowns are increasing the world over and is now also a barometer on press freedom and freedom of expression controls. South Asia has witnessed the highest number of Internet shutdowns globally, with India earning the dubious crown for the country with the highest number of Internet shutdowns,” the report said. Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal and Bihar are the states to have seen the maximum duration of shutdowns over the period 2012 and 2017 as per report by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).
Kashmir was the hotbed of internet shutdown over the past year, which saw nearly half of the total shutdowns in India. In Darjeeling, a 45-day internet shutdown was ordered due to public demonstrations, protests and clashes by activists. Bihar’s Nawada also had a shutdown for 40 days. Internet services were suspended for 12 days in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur, citing communal clashes. Of the six biggest shutdowns in South Asia last year, five were in India UNESCO report said.
Consequences of internet shutdown:
Human Rights impact: Internet access cannot be distinguished from the exercise of freedom of expression and opinion and the right to peaceful assembly. These rights – recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reflected in the Constitutions of many of the countries where those shutdowns occur entrust governments with the responsibility to respect them and protect their citizen’s enjoyment of them. As stated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 and reaffirmed since, people should enjoy the same protections of these rights whether in online or offline contexts. In practical terms, people routinely depend on the Internet to stay in touch with family and friends, create local communities of interest, report information of public nature, hold institutions accountable, access and share knowledge. As such, Internet shutdowns, in particular those that disable all means of communications should be considered as potential Human Rights violations. While rights such as free speech are not absolute and can b restricted on exceptional grounds – such as national security and public order – they also need to follow the three-part test laid out in Article 19(3) of the ICCPR, including meeting proportionality and necessity criteria. In recent years, the Human Rights’ community has stepped up its efforts to address the impact of Interne shutdowns on rights. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression has voiced concerns at the disproportionate impact of Internet shutdowns on people’s right to expression. A Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution, adopted by consensus in 2016, stated that it “condemns unequivocally measure to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law”. At the grassroots level, NGOs are also starting to flag Internet shutdown as part of the HRC’s Universal Period Review mechanism that reports on countries’ human rights record. Shutdowns undermine commitment to Development Goals Because of the role of the Internet in advancing public policy goals such as education, health and economic development, in 2015, 194 countries of the UN General Assembly recognized ICTs as a horizontal catalyst to reach the new 2030 Development Agenda. The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demonstrate the world’s commitment to social and economic growth. In particular, governments commit to ensuring universal and affordable Internet access by 2020. Internet shutdowns are in conflict with this commitment. The Prime Minister’s grand plans of Digital India, and massive push on the idea of a cashless economy, a kill switch on the internet has adverse consequences.
Economic impact, Recent report: Internet shutdowns can have massive economic impacts. Internet shutdowns caused loss of $3.04 billion (approx Rs 87,000 crore) to India, suggested a report about economic impact due to internet shutdowns between 20122017, by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). Brookings Institute estimates India lost over $968 million between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016 due to internet shutdowns alone. In total, the world lost around $2.4 billion due to internet shutdowns by governments, in the Brookings paper, India was on top of the list. These shutdowns not only have huge economic costs, they also restrict access to vital information for citizen and impede the work of journalists. The UNESCO report says, “They pose a threat to human rights and block the public’s right to know; and have emerged as a significant tool of censorship by governments which are increasingly utilising shutdowns under the guise of security.” Social services like healthcare and banks are also driven to a halt with internet shutdowns. On the other hand, there remains no substantive data or evidence to prove that internet shutdowns can scale down violence, even as its abuse by the government increases. At the same time, “there is clear evidence that shutdowns deprive citizens’ access to basic, sometimes life-saving services at a time of crisis”. “While there is a massive increase in numbers of users and growing access to the internet, this has been countered with ever-increasing curbs on freedom of expression in the digital space. Internet shutdowns are being flagged as a major issue in the region by the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) and freedom of expression is the casualty,” the UNESCO report concludes. What should be the Guiding principles in internet shutdown A) Freedom of expression? Freedom of expression should be the norm, and any limitation to this right the exception. The central role the Internet in users’ social and economic lives recently led the United Nations to enact a resolution support in “the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet. The resolution condemns state efforts to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to information online.
B) Due process of law, proportionality and necessity Grounded in the principles of international human rights law, proportionality and necessity assessments should guide the actions of any policymaker entertaining the use of Internet shutdowns as a policy tool. Necessity means that any restriction of Internet access must be limited to measures which are strictly and demonstrably necessary to achieve a legitimate aim. It should be demonstrated that no other measure would achieve similar effects with more efficiency and less collateral damages. Necessity also implies an assessment of the proportionality of the measures. Any restriction of Internet access must also be proportional. A proportionality assessment should ensure that the restriction is “the least intrusive instrument amongst those which might achieve the desired result. The limitation must target a specific objective and not unduly intrude upon other rights of targeted persons.
C) For Cost-benefit assessment there are many costs to be considered as a result of Internet shutdowns; economic, technical, social. Governments need to
Consider these short and long-term effects. In most cases, even shutdowns as short as a week may have long term implications extending way after issues are resolved. The loss of trust and confidence in the Internet as a reliable platform of opportunities could have unquantifiable negative impacts, in particular on younger generations that see connectivity as a path to their future. What can be a Way forward Dialogue must be encouraged between governments, private sector players, the technical community, academia as well as civil society. Governments should be cognizant that shutdowns affect many sectors of society and it is imperative to engage in an open exchange with them with an aim to seek alternative ways of addressing legitimate issues, rather than turning to shutdowns as a policy tool.
Follow the due process of law: Governments commit to maintaining up to date, human rights respecting legislations that detail the limited narrowly defined circumstances under which any communications disruption may occur. Such an action should be in compliance with Article 19 International Covenant on Civil and Political (ICCPR).
Think twice, measure the cost first: Government to do a cost-benefit analysis of what shutdown with particular attention as to how they may affect businesses and young people. Network disruption hinders productivity, adversely impacts business confidence, and could be detrimental to short-term investments.
Rule out all non-shutdown options: Government looks out for best practices in addressing issue source, prioritizing alternative measures to sharing experiences within and across regions to bring solutions that do not rely on restrictions access. Reflect shutdown considerations in aid policies as Development banks and lending agencies can play important role in including Internet shutdowns assessments as part of their investment and of policies and conditions.
Prioritize customer needs: ISPs and telecom operators should challenge illegal requests of governments to uphold the rule of law. They should be transparent with their customers around the requests and communicate how long these are likely to occur.
Diversify voices: Venture capitalists and investments should integrate shutdowns as part of their assessments. The voice of SMEs and their economy’s future needs to be heard more light of how shutdowns may entirely undermine operations and prospects.
Role of Civil society Perform a watchdog function: Civil society organizations, along with other stakeholders, continue to play a key role calling for government accountability and transparency around shutdown occurrences. Expand advocacy arguments: Civil society act use economic arguments in addition to humanly strengthen their advocacy and convince governor that shutdowns are not rationale practices
Technical community Build resilient infrastructure: The Internet tech community has a key role to play in expanding connectivity solutions. More distributed a numerous network access points will likely be more difficult and cumbersome for government resorts to a single “kill switch”.

(The author is a student. Views are exclusively his own [email protected])

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