India is counted as one of the top countries which has made its mark in the IT sector. Still, it is very shocking that even after 18 years of Internet introduction in India, the true internet penetration is less than 10%. Three-fourth of the population is still not online catering to several reasons. The Modi wave is drifting at a full swing. Initiatives like Digital India have brought some hope but the goal still seems far-fetched. Moreover, the hot debates on net neutrality and Facebook’s free basics have quite successfully driven the attention of the masses and the government from the basic goal of providing free internet to questions on morality.
So what are the reasons of such poor internet penetration in the country while other similar developing countries like Brazil and China have been able to reach 65% and 60% internet penetration? These 7 reasons might give a better and fairer picture.
22% of the internet population is living in intense poverty. They can’t even afford a mobile device, let alone an internet connection. This 22% also belong to the illiterate section of the society who is not aware of the power of internet to the slightest extent. Even if the mobile penetration has increased in India, it had little effect over the internet penetration as many people still use mobile phones like Nokia 1100 or similar brands which don’t even support a data plan. One needs to put aside at least Rs 500 for a reasonable 3G data plan per month. 60% of rural India earns Rs. 35 per day which is not even enough to have a complete meal. How can someone expect them to have access to internet!
The use of fiber optics and broadband connectivity for a better speed is very limited in the country. Even if it exists, the channels don’t spread across more than the big cities providing access to less than 1.3% of the population. As a result, the majority of the population is dependent on mobile internet. An average Indian internet user consumes mobile data of 700 MB only while the world average stands at 20,000 MB.
Illiteracy and lack of awareness
Only 2–5% of the Indian population belongs to the “elite” English-speaking section of the society. English education is not up to the mark and people in rural and semi-urban areas are still not well versed in English. Unfortunately or fortunately, Internet is barely available in regional languages. A major part of the population is still living in acute poverty that doesn’t have the fortune of even holding a pen. Illiteracy and lack of awareness is an acute problem in India and access to internet is a far-fetched dream until basic education can do any justification to the ever increasing population.
Certain strange policies of the government and the low demand for internet have given rise to the accumulative cause of limited internet connection in India. Fair Usage Policy (FUP) throttles a user’s speed to 512 Kbps if he/she uses more than 20 GB of data. Some service providers have also come up with solutions like FTTH (Fibre To The Home) which aims at laying fibre optic cables all across and can provide a speed as high as 1 Gbps and can provide a speed of 100 Mbps at ease. But again infrastructure intervenes and the cost of laying the fibres is very high. Either no one is willing to pay such a high amount or it’s not needed by a large group. Hence, the result is limited connection.
There is no denial that corruption is rooted in our country. Everyone starting from the government to the people looks only for personal benefits. Supposedly, if forms are started to be filled online or we start voting online, there is a vast population who will lose their jobs.
The solution lies in building different communication models at cheap rates. Moreover, the government should provide a basic internet access to every household so that the deprived ones can have a basic understanding of how it works and what benefits they can garner.
The ministry of communication and information technology has taken a number of initiatives to expand the internet connection beyond the technology parks of the country. It has allocated Rs 100 crore to make at least 8,00,000 people literate in terms of digitization with the help of private sector companies – one person per household should be made digitally literate for a better growth. Apart from this, it has promised all the panchayat that it will install broadband optic fibre connection which will provide 10 megabytes of speed per second.
The dream may seem far-fetched but we can only hope not to have just proclaimed declarations all the way. Its high time for the government to come forward and improve the situation by clubbing together with the telecommunication companies. By compromising a little bit on profit making and maximizing digital knowledge, we can move a long way to achieve a better future when India will not just be known as one of the best IT destination but also as one of the most varied and widespread one.
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