Letter From India: 100 million dialing out: That leaves 900 million, by Amelia Gentleman

Saturday, April 23, 2005

There was no mistaking the triumphalism in the Indian government’s announcement last week that the country now had 100 million phone connections. The minister responsible said he was “proud” and telecommunications analysts hailed it as a “historic” day for India.
To those uninitiated in the complexities of the Indian telephone industry, the jubilation was somewhat bewildering. Of course, 100 million is an awful lot of telephones, but in a country with a population of more than a billion, there remain a staggering 900 million-odd people untouched by the much-hyped telecommunications revolution.
There are just nine telephones (mobiles or fixed lines) for every 100 people in India, and given that most people with a cellphone also have a land line, that means no more than around 6 percent of the population has access to the phone. As usual, these technological advances have entirely sidestepped the nation’s vast rural areas and just 1.7 percent of villagers have their own phones. Worse still, India is trailing far behind its Asian rival China, which has 600 million subscribers. Apart from Bangladesh and a few impoverished African nations, there aren’t many countries that have a lower proportion of the population on the phone.
Story found here.

Source: International Herald Tribune