What Does Internet Shutdown Cost the Turkmen Economy?

Potentially 8% of Turkmenistan’s annual GDP.

The government of Turkmenistan aggressively restricts access to the Internet, prompting an urgent need to evaluate the economic ramifications of such restrictions. The estimated economic toll of internet restrictions in Turkmenistan is substantial, ranging from 327 million USD to as high as 6.4 billion USD annually. These restrictions not only impede GDP growth but also deter foreign direct investment, limit job opportunities, and obstruct access to essential resources for both individuals and the country’s development.

Several toolkits exist to measure the economic costs of internet shutdowns, including NetBlocks, Netloss Calculator,, the Global Network Initiative, and many others. While these toolkits provide valuable insights, accurately assessing these costs remains challenging due to the complexity of measuring the severity of internet restrictions and the lack of transparency from authorities. The government of Turkmenistan does not publish a list and reasoning for blocking the websites.

Internet shutdowns impact GDP

The NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST) uses data from various sources such as the World Bank, Eurostat and U.S. Census, and the International Telecommunication Union to estimate the economic impact of internet disruptions. It indicates that a total internet shutdown in Turkmenistan for one day could result in a loss of 17.4 million USD, which translates to 6.4 billion USD per year, equivalent to around 7.8% of the country’s GDP in 2023.

However, it is worth noting that Turkmenistan does not typically enforce a total internet blackout but instead imposes aggressive and arbitrary restrictions, often blocking billions of IP addresses.

Websites and applications rely on web servers to host their content, each of which has its own IP address. The Cyber Security Agency of Turkmenistan has unrestrained authority to block all internet traffic to and from these IP addresses. For example, in October 2022, reports suggested that nearly 2.5 billion IP addresses were blocked in Turkmenistan, representing three-quarters of all IP addresses worldwide.

While the COST tool above estimates the economic loss for the hypothetical total internet shutdown, the Global Network Initiative calculates the economic impact of partial internet shutdowns based on the data from countries with low internet connectivity. According to this assessment, internet disruptions in low-connectivity countries amount to approximately 0.4% of their daily GDP. Using Turkmenistan’s current annual GDP estimate of 81.82 billion USD from the IMF data, this translates to approximately 327 million USD in annual losses from internet disruptions.

Shutting down the social media

Concerning the individual social media platforms in Turkmenistan, the COST tool suggests that a total shutdown of Instagram for a year would result in an estimated loss of approximately 265 million USD. Similar costs were projected for other popular platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Cumulatively, the shutdown of these five social media sites alone could have an impact totaling 1.3 billion USD in Turkmenistan.

Internet shutdowns impact FDI

Other tools, like the Netloss Calculator by the Internet Society, provides two estimates – cost of internet shutdowns and cost of blocking of certain internet services. These are deliberate and mandated disruptions. The tool uses past shutdowns and its duration to make its estimates. For example, on 10 April 2022 there was one internet shutdown in Turkmenistan on a national level that lasted 1 day and 16 hours. It involved blocking of social networks, VPN providers, and cloud platforms. Based on these estimates a year-long deliberate internet shutdown in Turkmenistan could result in a 25.2 million USD loss in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The tool also indicates the probability of Turkmenistan experiencing a shutdown as 9.57%. Meanwhile, deliberately blocking internet services for a year can result in a 6.7 million USD loss in FDI. While internet shutdown involves a national and regional shutdown of the internet, blocking internet services takes a lighter form by blocking only certain internet services.

Internet shutdowns impact employment

The Netloss Calculator tool also assesses the impact of deliberate and mandated internet shutdowns and blocking internet services on unemployment rates. One year of partial internet shutdowns in Turkmenistan would increase unemployment by 420 people while blocking internet services could result in 112 unemployed people.

The economic ramifications of internet restrictions in Turkmenistan go beyond direct losses. They also lead to significant indirect and long-term impacts, including restricted access to information, limited educational and healthcare services, inhibited innovation, and decreased opportunities for research and development. Although quantifying the exact economic loss is complex, it is evident that these restrictions come at a considerable cost, depriving Turkmen citizens of crucial resources and opportunities.

The economic toll of internet shutdowns in Turkmenistan is substantial and multifaceted. Despite the challenges in accurately measuring these costs, it is clear that internet restrictions come at a significant price for the Turkmen public. Moving forward, addressing these limitations and promoting a more open and accessible internet environment could unlock greater economic prosperity and societal advancement for Turkmenistan.

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