It possible for India vast majority of 1.25 billion people to be connect to the internet? This is the goal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India campaign. However, if the government is to reach this goal, they will need to make internet access more accessible and affordable. Smartphones are the only way to achieve this goal.
Modi’s policy has strong arguments. Researchers have seen evidence that mobile access has a multiplier effect for more than a decade. In 2005, it was estimate that every 10 percent increase in mobile access leads to an increase of almost 0.6% in GDP in low-income countries. A 2009 World Bank study showed that an increase of 10% in internet access leads to a 1.3% increase in GDP for developing countries.
India appears to be heading in the right direction. As the cost of smartphones has fallen and accessibility has improved, India has seen a huge increase in its use. The country has also jumped frogged old technologies and moved straight to the most recent gadgets.
It is not uncommon to find Indian homes without electricity but with mobile phones. Many people believe that India is now at a turning point in terms of its internet user base growth.
The market is dominated by smartphones and mobile phones, less than 3 percent of Indian phones are landlines and 89% of broadband connections in India are wireless.
In addition, the government has made significant progress through Make in India, a flagship strategy that aims to create a local environment for more mobile phones.
It easy to assume that a smartphone, as defined by the dictionary. A phone that can be use on cellular networks that are 3G or 4. This is incorrect. Smartphones can be any phone that has a touchscreen, access to the internet and apps. Smartphones not design for high-speed internet access called feature phones.
The figure shows that the majority of smartphones used in India between 2016 and 2017 were not 4G or 3G-enabled. Nearly 75% were feature phones and are therefore not suitable to access high-speed internet.
India requires affordable smartphones that can connect to the internet, and 4G or 3G-enabled phones. Also, India must have data plans that are cheaper with decent speeds.
India Cheap Phones And Expensive Connections
India’s telecom industry may soon be changing when it comes to data. Reliance Jio, a Mumbai-based telecom company, is now officially entering the market. It is own by Mukesh Ambani (the country’s richest man).
Reliance Jio and regulator, on one hand, and existing telecom companies on the other, have been engaged in a heated exchange of words about this entry. Initial refusals by incumbent providers to provide Reliance Jio necessary “points for interconnect”, i.e. locations where traffic can be exchanged between networks, was a sign that they were not willing to do so.
Both the incumbents as well as the newly launched company are in agreement on one thing: they oppose the current high taxes on telecom service, which include both voice and data.
The overall cost of the services and the price of the smartphone will still be prohibitive for Indian customers who are price sensitive. This is a serious problem that could lead to the derailment of the government’s Digital India strategy.
We Have Hope For The Future
Smartphones have become cheaper due to market forces. The majority of smartphones that India will produce in the next few years is 3G and 4G enabled.
The country’s linguistic diversity makes it difficult to access content on smartphones. However, the Constitution of India recognizes 22 languages. This is being addressed. Indus OS, India’s second-most popular mobile operating system, is an example of how market forces are moving in the right direction. It provides content in multiple languages through its App bazaar platform.
There is reason to be optimistic about recent attempts by regulators to lower voice- and data costs. A government with a large budget deficit will not be willing to forgo tax revenue.
There are two options to get more Indians online: either taxing telecom services too much or avoiding the policy uncertainty and blatant corruption that have plagued the sector over recent years.
A sick telecom industry is bad for the country and its citizens. The sector has been moving in the right direction by market forces, but now it is time for government to step in.