Net effect

There are mixed signals about the growth of internet and other modern means of communications in India. While it is agreed that internet penetration has been steadily growing, it has not grown fast enough and has not touched many important sections of population. Two new studies have placed India very low in connectivity and broadband speeds among even developing countries. In terms of connectivity, it is 21st among 25 countries and the broadband penetration rate is just above 12 per cent of that in China.

The mobile penetration rate is also less than in most countries. The average internet connection speed is much lower in India than most other countries. The study has found that in virtually all aspects, India is among the handful of least well performing countries.
This should be read alongside an IMRB survey which predicts that internet penetration in rural areas is set to double this year. This is a welcome outlook for the future, if it actually happens. In absolute numbers India may have made some achievements in the spread of new technologies and their tools because of the population size. But they have to spread faster to villages and cover more backward sections, as they have done in China.

There is a national e-governance plan and some private initiatives that have put in place necessary facilities and created increased awareness about the uses of new technologies. But the information still skirts most villages which can immensely gain from the internet. Farmers can beneficially learn about farming techniques, weather and price movements and the population as a whole can access information on government schemes, educational and employment opportunities and much else. It is estimated that a 10 per cent growth in broadband penetration can increase per capita GDP by 1.4 per cent.

The benefits of new technologies will be denied to most people if steps are not taken to spread them faster. These technologies help people in many ways to circumvent the inadequacy of physical infrastructure. They also help to make growth more representative and democratic. Changes have to take place at levels of policy and implementation and in terms of technology to improve the situation. There is immense scope for new technologies to change life in rural India. While there is a lot of talk about it, the actual changes happening on the ground are not fast enough.

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