Despite the Modi wave vouching for a Digital India, India boasting of some of the top IT companies, tech entrepreneurs and new digital startups springing every day, there is a disturbing fact that we’re all keep curtained. Only a small fraction of the population actually has access to the web. Debates over net neutrality and Facebook’s Free Basics seem to have conveniently forgotten how the focus should primarily be on how to give access to every Indian before we actually debate its different forms and limited coverage.
Recently, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey on the impact and coverage of internet in India. Only 22% of adults in India had access to Internet services. This puts India very behind other developing countries like Brazil & China, where Internet access rates are 65% and 60% respectively. There are several factors to why internet acess is so limited here:
Building a high speed, large coverage internet grid requires heavy infrastructure to relay signals and set up cables. India simply lacks the routers, fiber optic cables and servers required to make this happen. The public Wi-Fi are over stretched and often hogged by a few individuals. 3G often works at the speeds of 2G and keeps fluctuating when on the move, thus eliminating the concept o0f a stable internet connection you can rely on.
Being able to afford an internet connection is a luxury not many can afford. On an average, an internet connection will cost you around 800 a month in India and this is apart from the cost of setting up- a broadband, modem and WiFi router. 3G connections by every meaning of the word are simply not affordable. At the rate of 100 rupees for 300MB, where a single YouTube will cost you 15-20MB at a minimum, you can literally calculate the cost of 3G to be at least 4 times more than sitting in a cyber café with a faster internet connection.
There is simply no such as thing as an “unlimited” internet connection in India. Fair Usage Policy (FUP) has convinced everyone that the resource of bandwidth is limited, and thus needs to be conserved, but this far from the truth. Internet data even on broadband and fixed lines can be reaching good speeds, but this is limited to painfully less amounts. For example the speed advertised on the brochure of 5MBps? That will last only about a few GBs before it drops to the year 2005 and you’re downloading at 50kbps.
Lack of awareness
India lacks the general sense of awareness of the different technical forms of internet connections, such as dial-ups, broadbands and 4G networks. While the world researches in 5G connections we are literally charging for every MB spend on a 3G connection. Such disparity ensure advertisers can mock the general public and issue flashy websites of the “download a movie in HD in under 5 minutes!” whereas they forget to mention this movie will cost you 200 rupees minimum in internet alone, apart from the legal cost of subscribing to a magazine.
The internet’s primary language is English and even though now language diversity is an important factor for all startups, apps, software’s and even Hindi styled keyboards are popular, it’s yet to catch on. A large segment of India’s population knows how to speak and understand Hindi and regional languages but reading and writing/typing involves some level of literacy and talent. This can be changed by the popularization of simplified technologies, which are especially designed for Indians, not just language packs.
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