India had 254.40 million internet subscribers by September 2014. That’s an internet penetration of 20.39 per 100. But the picture changes when you consider that 70.23% of them are narrowband subscribers and only 29.77% access a useful connection. Less than 6% of total internet subscribers use what TRAI defines as ‘desired bandwidth speeds’. Surely digital inclusion is about more than such basic connectivity? And while government policies such as Digital India set targets for the supply/infrastructure side of digital inclusion, who is looking at adoption or demand-side issues?
Three different sets of data are available on internet penetration and use in India – from TRAI, from the census and from IAMAI-IMRB. But even read together the data fails to provide a comprehensive picture of digital inclusion in India.The absence of meaningful data cannot be overemphasized as we set out to achieve Digital India goals.
How does India, third largest economy in the world, compare with other BRICS nations on digital inclusion? There’s not one indicator – subscribers, penetration, affordability or speed – where India ranks anywhere close to the top. Digital India has some serious work to do if it wants to achieve its ambitious targets.
Globalexperiences reveal that training in the uses of the Net and training to enhance the ability to act collectively for the social good are vital accompaniments to the promise that the internet holds out for a more equitable and inclusive society.
In the absence of any specific central policy on the digital divide in India, this article pieces together the different programmes, including Digital India, that address internet access and adoption issues and aim to provide for digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen as well as the digital empowerment of citizens.
Not a single one of the Eighth Schedule Indian languages is used by more than .01% of the total websites in the world. Indian languages are severely under-represented in the internet world. Facebook, which provides options in 11 of India’s 22 Eighth Schedule languages, and Google, with its search engine options in 9 languages, seem to be doing more for linguistic inclusion on the internet than either the government or Indian companies.
“E-governance is about using ICTs to improve government processes themselves, making them more efficient, and about transforming the relationship between governments and citizens by enabling more direct interaction and fostering inclusive development”
Studies which focus on information and communication technologies (ICTs) as tools for new forms of instrumental communication and information processing take a technocratic view of technology, providing a perspective that understands notions such as ‘efficiency’ or productivity as the essence of technology (Bertot, Jaeger & Grimes, 2010a; Bertot, Jaeger & Grimes, 2010b; Lea, 2004). Generalisations about the imperatives of technology appear prominently in this approach.
Many e-governance programmes in developing countries reach into the furthest regions of the rural countryside. These programmes intend to bring governance services, via digital means, to citizens who have little access to modern governance mechanisms. This technology ‘contact’ brings with it new assumptions and new relations of governance; it emerges in a ﬁeld that is already dense with social relations that are both historically deﬁned and changing and re-forming in response to the onslaught of modernity.
As mobiles, PCs and web 2.0 technologies reach the poor, technology plays out in their everyday reality in creative new ways. The global poor are usually characterised as passive consumers. We need to shift this perspective of the poor and see them as active producers and innovators. As Heeks (2010) argues, disbursing ICT-enabled incentives for new incomes and jobs will require ‘a new view of the world’s poor’: one that sees them as innovative producers and agile agents of ICT products and services.
People use the internet, much as they did the telegraph since 1838, to keep in touch, be informed and be entertained. But the state’s intent for offering internet is often tied to e-governance and livelihoods. China’s experience illustrates the disconnect between top-down technology policy and bottom-up need-driven internet use, and prompts us to ask what access to the internet really means, what the internet should be used for, and who drives access and use