How Internet Penetration Is Helping Rural India Grow Digitally Technologies like big data analytics, machine learning, and blockchain will be increasingly deployed to supply commodities in rural areas in the coming years

By Shishir Jajoo

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Shishir Jajoo

India is progressing along the development path, and its rural population is an essential part of this progress. Rural India is growing at a rate more than three times faster than urban India, which will likely require significant changes in how people access the Internet and the digital ecosystem as a whole.

While internet users in urban India increased by 4 per cent to 323 million in 2020, rural India continues to lead the way in digital adoption, with a 13 per cent increase in Internet users in the past year, according to a report released by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and consulting firm Kantar.

As per the report, Maharashtra has the highest penetration of active internet users, followed by Goa and Kerala, with Bihar having the lowest penetration.

Increasing internet consumers

India is one of the biggest marketplaces for internet users, with over 600 million Web users in 2019. Consumers in the metropolitan areas were primarily responsible for the expansion of the digital economy. Rural India, however, has begun to embrace the digital economy as a result of the government's step toward financial aids. According to the TRAIL report, internet subscribers in rural areas are more than 38 per cent of all internet users in India, increasing from 32 per cent in March 2017.

According to the recent TRAI report, rural India has a 33 per cent Internet penetration rate, in contrast to 99 percent in urban India. This disparity is majorly caused by two factors; a lack of knowledge and infrastructure.

Initiatives for Digital Rural India

Despite India's growing number of internet users, there is still a massive divide between rural and urban areas. The government of India has initiated the "Digital India program' to fill this gap. The fundamental purpose of this program is to encourage the techno-economic feasibility of digital technology and offer initiatives for efficient application in rural regions.

Agriculture is a significant source of income for villagers in India. By connecting rural India with the digital world, these villagers acquire information on weather, agricultural inputs, planting, and harvesting methods. In addition, locals are seeking medical assistance at digital village centers, and veterinary telecommunication centers are also available for villagers to bring their cattle.

The "Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana' is an influential initiative taken by the Indian government to improve rural India's financial connectivity with the digital world. The primary goal of this program is to connect every home in India with a banking system.

Akodara village, situated in Gujarat, is the first Digital Village of India. Each house is connected to a bank, and the bulk of villagers make their payments using electronic methods. The majority of payments are made via SMS, and funds are transferred immediately to the shopkeeper's account. In addition, this village possesses a website, which people use for various purposes.

The main advantage of the Digital Village Program is that residents can perform online activities via the internet. Students can learn different subjects from many teachers belonging to urban areas, whose educational videos are freely available on the internet. Indians are fond of lotteries, and now they can play lotteries and check results online. With easy access to the internet, rural people can get the Teer Result and results of state lotteries on Lottery Sambad.

A variety of training programs are provided to rural India to help them become digitally active. These programs assist people in using the internet in their everyday lives. More than 400 awareness sessions were held in the digital village, and about 80,000 villagers attended these programs.

Future Projections

The government's programs and efforts by private sectors are a significant milestone towards digitizing rural India, yet they only reach a small portion of the rural population. The government, regulatory authorities, and fintech startups must join hands to harness the promise of digital rural India as penetration of smartphones and consumption of mobile data is expanding in rural areas.

Technologies like big data analytics, machine learning, and blockchain will be increasingly deployed to supply commodities in rural areas in the co

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