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India Still Has A Vast Digital Divide


India contributes a fourth of the four billion individuals not digitally connected worldwide, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Ram Sewak Sharma said, adding that the sector offers huge opportunities. “Out of four billion not connected to the Internet, 25% comes from this country,” Sharma Tuesday said.

Speaking on the sidelines of an industry event organised by the India Cellular & Electronics Association (ICEA) in New Delhi, he said that mobile phone has become an empowering tool, which is extremely important for utilities such as digital transactions as well as direct benefits transfer. India contributes to nearly 20% of the Asian Internet users, with China having more than 800 million Internet subscribers.

Lately, India’s Internet usage has jumped manifold. Thanks to Reliance Jio’s disruptive entry in 2016, followed by competitive data tariffs by rivals such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).

With the second-highest Internet users, India still has a vast digital divide especially in rural and far-flung areas including the Northeast region where even basic telecom connectivity is yet to reach in thousands of villages.

“India has the largest number of 1.2 billion cellular connections. Indians use nearly 8Gb data every month and telecom networks transmit data more than the US and China put together,” Sharma said, adding that data prices have become negligible.

“There is still a huge opportunity,” Trai chief added.

Sharma said it was already recapitulated that a 10% growth in Internet penetration would bring 1% rise in GDP.

“India has leapfrogged in many areas. The Internet has to be a permission-less platform and should a have robust security platform in place,” he said, adding that country’s digital story is quite open source.

In 2014, India has come up with open source, open standards and open API policies.

“Devices are also an integral part of the Internet. The operating systems and apps also become gatekeepers, and have to address areas of data protection and ownership,” Sharma said.

The framework on the data privacy, security and ownership, is in the Parliament awaiting approval, according to him.

Sharma added that the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) transaction has more than doubled within the span of nearly two years.


Niloy Banerjee

A generic movie-buff, passionate and professional with print journalism, serving editorial verticals on Technical and B2B segments, crude rover and writer on business happenings, spare time playing physical and digital forms of games; a love with philosophy is perennial as trying to archive pebbles from the ocean of literature. Lastly, a connoisseur in making and eating palatable cuisines.

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