In ‘e-Gujarat’,just 3% of households have Internet connectivity

In a state that has about 40 e-governance projects and has won several awards for them,the Internet penetration among households is just over 3%.

Written by Avinash Nair | Ahmedabad | Published: June 23, 2012 4:45:23 am

In a state that has about 40 e-governance projects and has won several awards for them,the Internet penetration among households is just over 3%. The state has fewer homes with Internet connections as compared to states like Maharashtra,Andhra Pradesh,Karnataka,Tamil Nadu,Kerala and West Bengal.

Of the 1.21 crore homes in Gujarat covered in Census 2011,only 3.8 lakh homes have computers and laptops having Internet connectivity. In comparison,states similar in size have better Internet connectivity — Maharashtra has Internet connectivity in 13.7 lakh homes,Andhra Pradesh in 5.4 lakh homes,Karnataka (6.3 lakh) and Tamil Nadu (7.7 lakh).Even smaller states like Kerala (4.8 lakh homes with Internet connections) and West Bengal (4.4 lakh) have far greater Internet penetration.

Urban-rural e-divide

Most of the Internet connectivity in Gujarat is in urban centres.

In ‘e-Gujarat’,just 3% of households have Internet connectivity

Of the 67 lakh homes in rural Gujarat,just 0.6% of the households have Internet. Urban areas are a shade better,with 6% of the total 54 lakh homes having Internet connections.

The unimpressive Internet connectivity in Gujarat puts a question mark on the impact of 40-odd “citizen centric” e-governance projects launched by the state government in the last one decade.

Most of these e-governance projects are meant to assist people from rural areas. For instance, e-Gram project,which won Skoch Challenger Award and the CSI-Nihilent Award in 2008 for being an outstanding project,is primarily meant for the rural people for accessing services like e-ticketing of railways,airlines,utility bill payments,licences,permits,insurance selling and market linkages for agriculture commodities.

However,the state government says e-governance projects have been very effective because Gujarat has “created its own Internet footprint through projects like e-Gram”.

“Last year,e-transactions worth over Rs 10.5 crore happened in the state,” said Ravi Saxena,additional chief secretary in charge of state’s science and technology department.

“In 2010-11,electricity bills of 55 lakh rural households,worth Rs 29.1 crore,were paid through e-gram outlets,” he said,adding that people could easily access these centres (located in panchayat offices) that have broadband Internet connectivity.

According to Saxena,projects like e-Dhara (complete computerisation of all land records and citizen-centric delivery of services),Mahitishakti (online forms for citizens for ration cards and old-age pension scheme),Gujarat Ration Card Computerisation and Form Book (an online book containing various forms required by the citizens),have made an impact in the state. However,most of this Internet connectivity seems to restricted to the government and panchayat offices/centres.

As per the Census 2011,the districts of Dang (137 homes with Internet connections) and Narmada (576 homes) have the lowest Internet connectivity while Ahmedabad (1.2 lakh homes with Internet connections),Surat (55,000) and Vadodara (53,000 homes) have the highest Internet penetration.

Interestingly,the rural areas of even the most progressive districts of the state have poor Internet penetration. While rural areas in Vadodara and Surat have just 1,500 and 3,200 homes with Internet connections,respectively,rural Ahmedabad has just 1,002 homes with Net.

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