India can connect without Free Basics, says internet body

internet

Irrespective of Facebook’s Free Basics, India’s internet user-base is already growing at a healthy clip after reaching 400 million users this month, and is expected to grow at a much faster pace next year.

Nilotpal Chakravarti, associate vice president (AVP), Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), said India did not need programmes like Free Basics to improve its internet connectivity in India.

He said it was growing at robust pace without it.

“All this while, we have been growing at a fast pace without a programme like Free Basics, I don’t see any reason why we would need such programmes to further accelerate the growth,” he said.

As per the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) number, India’s internet user-base touched 400 million in December, which is ahead of US’s over 300 million but behind China’s 600 million making it the second largest internet user-base in the world.

India has not only overtaken the US but it is also adding internet users at a much faster rate than the rest of the world. It took it three years to climb from 200 million internet users to 300 million users but just one year to leap from 300 million internet users in 2014 to 400 million in 2015.

Chakravarti, who is forecasting Indian’s internet subscribers to assume a fast clip in 2016, said this accelerated growth has been driven mainly by penetration of smartphone in rural area. He is expecting India to grow its internet user-base by more than 100 million users next year.

“This (growth in internet users) is mainly driven by smart phones, which have become affordable and internet-enabled. The growth is primarily coming from rural areas of India, where people are accessing Internet through the mobile, not desktop,” he said.

The DeitY figure puts smart phone sales in 2015 at around 100 million compared to 80.5 million smart phones last year.

Dr Ajay Kumar, additional secretary, DeitY, says higher connectivity has given a major push to the government’s Digital India initiative, which has picked up pace this year.

According to him, over 600 crore e-government services were transacted in 2015 compared with over 300 crore in the previous year. As per the government numbers, e-governance services count per month in 2015 was 55 crore against 29.4 crore per month last year.

“If we compare where were last year with where we are today, we are better off (on the Digital India programme),” said Dr Kumar.

He expects a significant improvement in 2016 with the aggressive rollout of 4G, 5G and latest technology evolution (LTE) services by telecom majors.

“We can go to big numbers with a population of 125 crore (1250 million),” he said.

Government data shows that digital literacy, which was launched in August 2014, saw a total enrolment of 33.74 lakh. Of this, 24.43 lakh have been trained and 6.35 lakh certified till now. Aadhaar enrolment till November 2015 was 94 crore compared to 74 crore last year.

E-commerce business has reached $16.3 billion this years compared with $13.5 billion last year.

The government got investment proposals for electronic manufacturing worth Rs1.14 lakh crore for 159 units in the current calendar year. This is a massive jump from proposals worth Rs17,390 crore for 53 units last year. A large portion of this year’s investment proposals were related to mobile handset manufacturing plant.

As per government data, ministry of information technology’s Electronic Development Fund attracted 20 venture funds in less than two months.

[“source-dnaindia”]

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