Connecting leaders across the world for internet inclusion

Nijhum Rudra
New Update

The intent of this event is to provide a platform for a deeper dive into challenges, barriers, and opportunities to hasten efforts to connect the unconnected within the local context and perspective


IEEE hosted an event in New Delhi which focused on Internet Inclusion: Advancing Solutions India involving government officials and leaders from development banks, industry, the technical community, NGOs/CSOs, and others in a day of collaborative development across industry sectors, technology domains and disciplines, generations, and cultures. The event was planned as there was a need to continue the trend from vertical development to cross-functional collaborative development, and to bring stakeholders together to discuss synergies and overlaps, strengthen cross-sector and cross-discipline collaboration, and identify new approaches and resources to advancing solutions.

The Delhi event was an outcome of the 13 April 2016 Global Connect Stakeholders: Advancing Solutions event in Washington, DC where 150+ engineers, scientists, development professionals, industry leaders and others from an array of technology and industry domains globally gathered with global policy experts to explore real-world opportunities that exist now to extend affordable internet access in underdeveloped and underserved communities and regions.

Richard R Verma, US Ambassador to India, US Embassy said, “Like the agriculture and industrial revolutions of previous centuries, the digital revolution will be coupled with disruptions. The challenge for the United States and India, two democracies with 1.7 billion people, is how to minimize these disruptions. The digital revolution enhances global prosperity and stability. This will require a meeting of the minds and how we manage the global, which includes a rule based approach to cyber security and cyber norms, as well as greater cooperation for building cyber infrastructure – including Internet connectivity to ensure our citizens can take full advantage of the 21st century digital economy.”


“Our convergence on global cyber comments and cyber security has never been closer and our discussions never so candid. Three weeks ago at the second annual Strategic and Commercial Dialog here in Delhi, I was honored to sign a framework for the US–India cyber relationship, alongside India’s cyber security coordinator Dr.Gulshan Rai. Never before has the United States signed such a document with a foreign partner. The framework outlines priority areas for US-India cyber cooperation including strengthening critical Internet infrastructure, and undertaking skill development and capacity building programs,” added Verma

“The framework also reiterates the basic values our two nations share with regard to the Internet – including the multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance, and respecting fundamental Internet freedoms. We look forward to working with India to fulfill the tenants of the framework at the end of this month, when senior Indian and US officials meet here in New Delhi for the Cyber and Information Communications Technology dialogs,” Verma further added.

Ambassador Verma also spoke about bridging the digital divide and the role of the GCI (Global Connect Initiative), and the investment committed by the US Government and other nations. He also likened the Digital India initiative to that of the GCI.


The United States can learn lessons from India given the Digital Divide in our own country between rural and urban areas.”

The fact remains that 3 out of 5 people in the world are still without Internet access. This is unacceptable because in today’s digital economy to be unconnected is to fall behind. That’s why the United States launched the Global Connect Initiative or GCI last year. To review Internet connectivity as essential infrastructure, the same as roads, bridges and ports. At the inaugural CCI meeting in April Secretary of State John Kerry and leaders from all over the world announced $20 billion in investments to help bridge the digital divide – and bring an additional 1.5 billion people online by 2020.

The United States appreciated the support of IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who stated that the GCI’s goals mirror those of Prime Minister Modi’s Digital India initiative. Since the launch of Global Connect the US has announced more than $1 billion in worldwide financing for development agency partners such as. In India the US overseas private investment cooperation for OPEC is providing $14 million in financing for low-cost, rapidly scalable wireless broadband network which will help bring affordable Internet to unconnected villages.


J.S. Deepak, Secretary DoT, Government of India, spoke about India’s challenges in 6 areas and outlined the initiatives that the government of India has undertaken to counter those challenges. He spoke about Internet inclusion, the Bharat Net project& NOFN. The 6 challenges the country has to tackle for Internet inclusion are:

-Broadband Connectivity

-Digital Literacy

-Digital content in Indian languages

-Availability of e-services

-Quality of Service on mobile networks

-Cyber security

He said, “India is the fastest growing economy in the world. We have a very young population. The education levels, especially in … are increasing. As far as trade is concerned, we are one of the most open economies; the trade deficit is perhaps the largest percentage of the GDP of all large economies. We are very open to investment, to innovation and to private enterprise. In telecom for instance, we have 100% FDI in telecom services and manufacturing. With all this and an agenda to make doing business in India simpler and easier, we still have certain …. (Challenges?)  And one of them is the digital arena. Despite the progress in IT/ITES, in software design and in telecom growth, we are still a digital have-not in many ways.”


Broadband connectivity

The Challenge: “Looking at the number of households that have access to the Internet, we rank more than 100 in the world. Mobile broadband, the rank is 155. Landline broadband is 111.”

“There is lot of inequity. About 300 – 400 million of the population have access to fast services on both landline and mobile. But the rest of the population is not really included in this growth story. So a lot of our citizens are not able to leverage the benefits of technology and economic growth. And the World Bank tells us that for a developing economy like India, every 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration can result in an increase of per capita by 1.3 percent.”

“Because broadband penetration has been low, it has not had a strong impact on GDP growth. “


Digital Literacy

The Challenge: “A survey done in December 2014,brought out that only 16 percent of all rural households in India are digitally literate. Digital literacy is defined as: at least one member of the household is able to access the computer or mobile apps. This digital divide, because of lack of connectivity and digital illiteracy, leads to a dissymmetry of information, which in turn leads to a dissymmetry of opportunity. “

“Ignorance is a threat to progress and this is something we need to get a hold on very quickly.”

Opportunities, solutions & initiatives

“To address the challenge of digital literacy the Department of Electronics and IT has come out with a National Digital Literacy Mission, which was announced by our Finance minister in the last budget. Through a partnership between the state governments and the government of India, it has the ambitious objective to raise the level of digital literacy from 16% to 50% in three years.”


Digital Content in Indian languages

Challenge:“We have 22 languages in India that are recognized by the constitution, spoken by 100 million plus people.There are more than 200 dialects. However, most digital content is in English, which is available to 300 – 400 million people. This is a major challenge to reach and access.”

Opportunities, solutions & initiatives

“The language challenge is also being addressed and the government has a vision that in the next two years 95% of all services that citizens access today should be available in all the Indian languages. And both mobile apps and multi-lingual websites the person who is today out of reach of the net, will be brought into it.”

Limited availability of e-services

Challenge: “Most of our local bodies like municipalities and utilities are only now getting online and making end-to-end electronic delivery of services available.”

Opportunities, solutions & initiatives

“The government has the agenda of bringing 90% of the services online and electronically, making them paperless, presence-less and cashless, so that you can access them without going to a government office. You can access it from your home through the Internet in the next two years.”

Poor QoS(Quality of Service) on networks

Challenge: “The pressure of numbers because of the density of population and increasing data and voice minutes used often ingests networks, and the quality of services is often what it should not be.  And this leads to demand for quality of services.”

Opportunities, solutions & initiatives

“One of the bigger problems or issues of providing quality of service on mobile has been the availability of spectrum. On 1st October 2016 we begin our fifth spectrum auction in which we propose to put out 2,350 Mhz of spectrum on the table. This gives an opportunity to every mobile service provider in India to fill gaps and get large blocks, to be able to provide services efficiently – for both data and voice.”

The challenge of cyber security

“The cyber security challenge is again being … (addressed) through a number of very large initiatives. Cyber security is related to espionage and disruption of services. But the other part is the security of data and the security of banking transactions. (Customers will not do their banking online if accounts are hacked and money is stolen by hackers. Customers will lose confidence in banks). (To counter this) the government set up the national coordination cyber centre to ensure that major networks are not only monitored but capacity is built within organizations from the private sector and government.“

The Digital opportunity

“Application of latest technology is the way forward. And we believe that digital delivery of services through the Internet can really transform the lives of people. However, looking at the challenges there is a need to leapfrog stages of development, as happened with the mobile telecom revolution. We have gone from a nation with almost no connectivity to a nation of ubiquitous mobile connectivity. Connectivity on the go has become a norm. The same is required for data connectivity.”

Dr. Eric Schmidt, the Chairman of Alphabet said that of the next billion users of the Internet, more than 500 million will be from India. The latest Nasscom report says that by 2020 we will have a 730 million users in a population of 1.5 billion, which is very impressive growth. But it will still leave a lot of households unconnected. There we look at Internet inclusion not just as a challenge but as a huge opportunity. From health and education to agriculture and disaster management; from human resource development to financial inclusion and e-commerce, the Internet has the power to take these services to the people and make it possible – especially on the mobile (platform). But this will also happen through various other initiatives of the government of India. The challenge is to do it in one go.”

“The prime minister’s vision for Digital India seeks to address all these challenges and leverage some of the opportunities which we seek for us.”

“High speed broadband as a digital infrastructure for every citizen, even the farthest of villages is one of the objectives of this program. Through the National Fibre Optic Network (NOFN) we hope to reach every village by 2018 and 100,000 gram panchayats by March 2017. Through high-speed 80 – 100 Mbps connectivity and, as a last mile solution set up hotspots in all the 600,000 villages. So every citizen will be able to access government to citizen services. By 2017 every village will have a mobile footprint. ”

Objective in India

“The objective in India is to ensure that very soon every citizen has access to the Internet, if not from their homes, then through common service centres and hotspots. The Internet should transform from a network of communication to one for service provision and empowerment of the citizen. The idea is not just to give the citizen access to services, but also to various applications to enable them to participate in the government. Ultimately, it is about giving a voice and a choice – a choice of accessing services to multiple means including electronic platform and a voice to tell the government, through feedback on the Internet, as to what he needs and what are the applications and services that he considers beneficial.