Will India catch the Internet bandwagon?

By : |May 23, 1999 0

The Internet has witnessed an explosive growth in the
countries around the world-in developed countries you can pay your taxes, get licenses
renewed, apply in the universities, and do much more on the Net. Will the Internet make
life easier in India the way it has done in other countries?

The answer is yes…
India is strong in Internet capacity. Finding quality web professionals is not a
very tough job here. Also, a good amount of training is available for the web-related
technologies. Apart from the training majors like NIIT and Aptech, there are institutes
like IIS Websity that specialize in Internet-related training.

The bodies like IT Task Force are helping government
(and people too!) realize the importance of the Internet. ISP policy, allowing the entry
of private ISPs, is the result of such efforts only.

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The ISP policy is also instrumental in promising Internet
growth in the country. India now has around a dozen ISPs (operational) and close to
800,000 Internet users. Private ISPs have made Net access cheaper and easier in the small
towns.

…as well as no
On the flip side, Indian Internet community is largely, if not completely,
urban.
And still more than sixty percent of the population is rural.

Many Indian villages are still waiting for 24-hour power
supply and are surviving with one phone only–good telecom infrastructure, a must have for
Internet access, seems to be a distant dream.

The Net in India is still an English-oriented phenomenon.
The country’s more than 45 percent of the population is illiterate, and a major chunk of
the literate population also is not comfortable with English. This way Internet remains
the preserve of the privileged few–widening the gap between technology haves and
have-nots.

The cost of accessing the Net in the country is
pretty high. Apart from hardware cost, one hour of surfing costs more than Rs 20 per hour
(as per new telecom tariffs). Most of the Indian households are not yet ready to shoulder
this additional burden.

What needs to be done
The Internet explosion may sound difficult, but it’s no way impossible. The first and
foremost thing to be done is introduction of special telephony rates for Internet
access. India is a price-sensitive market. For the Internet to take up access rates have
to be brought down.

Then comes the need of developing localized content–better
in quantity as well as quality. Information utility for local audience is an important
factor. The government will have to boost local entrepreneurs so that sites of local
flavor get built.

The government will have to play a supportive
role in letting new technologies find and implement better mechanisms and replace
age-old systems. This needs fast policy decisions.

A strong partnership between government, private, and
educational sectors with special boost to local creativity will make the Internet an
integral part of life in India, as it is in many countries around the world.

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