Net revolution

The communication revolution that has swept India in the last few years may be set to take another leap in the near future. If the spread of landlines and mobile phones marked the first stage of the revolution, the use of internet might be the next.A survey conducted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB shows that India’s internet population is growing fast and might cross 120 million by December this year. This will be about 10 per cent of the population. In September this year it crossed the 100 million mark, which is considered to be an important turning point. It could provide the momentum to take the country to the position of the largest internet user in the world in a decade. At present the figure stands at 112 million, out of which 97 million are active users, and the country is third only to China and the US in the strength of its net population.

A welcome feature of the spread of internet culture is that 37 per cent of the users are in small towns. This has to expand further to villages. There is scope for explosive expansion of the internet through mobile phones. There are 600 million mobile phone users and the number is fast rising, soon to overtake China’s mobile ownership. It is not difficult to make every phone connection an internet connection. With the spread of low-cost PCs and a likely fall in costs, aided by a cut in government levies, the internet can become a part of everyday life. The gains are very substantial. All aspects of life like education, health care, business, and governance are set to change. It is estimated that a 10 per cent rise in internet penetration can lead to a 1.4  per cent growth in GDP. It can also help people get around the lack of infrastructure.

There are many problems like low broadband speed, lack of good and relevant content and the inability of a major player like BSNL to ramp up its work. Growth in absolute numbers is not enough. According to the International Telecommunication Union’s ranking India is still 116th out of 165 countries. But there are signs that the situation is changing and it is for the government to help speed up the process.

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