India’s Vision for a Digital Billion

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

As 2006 drew to a close the President of India outlined his vision for a connected India.

He challenged the country’s technical elite to provide free bandwidth “for anyone, anywhere, anytime”.

In the speech, Dr Abdul Kalam said that communication channels were a “demolisher of imbalances” and likened the government’s responsibility to it to “laying the roads”.

This one action, he said, would not only boost the economy of India but would also address the imbalance between the haves and the have-nots of the digital world.

It would allow for services such as e-governance, remote diagnosis of disease through telemedicine and distance learning.

“I am convinced we will soon be living in a world of unlimited bandwidth,” he told the gathered crowd in the IT hub of Salt Lake, just outside Calcutta.

But Dr Kalam, and the India government’s vision of inclusive growth is not as simple as it may seem.

Business muscle

Although in urban areas there is a fibre optic infrastructure and a comprehensive mobile phone network, it only serves a fraction of the population.

More than 700 million Indians live in rural areas, much of which is untouched by modern communications. 27% of homes do not have electricity.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates that in 2005 – the latest year for which complete figures are available – there were around 60 million internet users in India, about 5% of the population. Only a fraction of these have internet access in their home.

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Source: BBC News (link opens in a new window)