India’s on a digital sprint that is leaving millions behind

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India’s on a digital sprint that is leaving millions behind

Two Indian labourers follow news on a laptop computerImage copyright
AFP

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India’s rural internet density is poor

India has more than 630 million internet subscribers. But for every Indian who has access to the internet, there is at least one who does not and that person is most likely living in a rural area. Smriti Parsheera writes on the country’s continuing digital divide.

There is an exuberance around India’s digital story.

The country is home to the world’s second-largest internet user base, consisting of more than 630 million subscribers. That is more than the total population of the US, the United Kingdom, Russia and South Africa put together.

It also has the cheapest mobile data prices, which has allowed a large population to use the internet just in the last four years.

Besides the size of the pie, data consumption is also on the rise.

The average internet user now consumes more than 9GB of data per month. That translates to watching 16 hours of video a month compared to just 15 minutes in 2015.

Other positive trends include a competitive e-commerce market, a booming video streaming industry and a choice of affordable devices.

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India’s digital divide

  • Rural population66%

  • Internet density 25.3%

  • Urban population34%

  • Internet density97.9%

Source: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

At the government’s end, electronic governance, mobile health and digital finance are at the heart of many policy discussions.

All of this excitement is, however, surrounded by the sobering reality of India’s continuing digital divide.

This refers to the gap between those who have access to the internet and other digital technologies and those who do not.

The divide is shaped both by the availability of internet services in different regions and the ability of individuals to tap into those services. A person’s location, income, gender, education, language, and age are some of the factors that define their access.

As per data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the country has an internet density of 48.4. This represents the number of internet subscribers per 100 people in the population.

Even though 66% of the country’s population lives in its villages, rural internet density is just 25.3. In comparison, urban areas have a significantly higher density of 97.9.

Image copyright
AFP

This means that for every Indian who has access to the internet, there is at least one who does not and that person is most likely living in a rural ar

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