Despite the push towards digitisation India’s internet connectivity continues to lag. According to the ‘World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends’, authored by Deepak Mishra and Uwe Deichmann almost a billion people in India still need to connect to the internet for pushing growth, creating jobs and accessing public services. The report also pointed that India has the most restrictive market regulation in retail finance and banking.
228 million was the number of people in India who used internet in 2014. By comparison, more than 680 million people were using internet in China and 282 million in the United States. While India has come close to US in numbers, in terms of internet penetration it was far behind at 18 per cent as against 87 per cent in the US. The internet penetration in China stood at 49 per cent.
The worldwide internet penetration rate has jumped six fold from 7 per cent in 2000 to 41 per cent in 2014. Among various regions, South Asia registered the lowest internet penetration as only 17 per cent of the population was online at the end of 2014. The Internet penetration rate nearly quadrupled in the Middle East and North Africa, from 10 per cent in 2005 to 38 per cent in 2014.
Stating that nearly a billion people still not connected to the internet, the report pointed that the opportunities for increasing access to digital technology for creating higher growth, more jobs, and better public services are significant for India as at least 8 in 10 individuals in India own a mobile phone.
Releasing the report in India , Mishra said that digital development strategies in India need to be broader than Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategies. “There is little doubt about the transformative potential of digital technologies. However, they are not a shortcut to development, though they can be an accelerator when used in the right way,” he said.
World Bank Country Director in India Onno Ruhl said the digital revolution is transforming the world, aiding information flow and creating huge opportunities for growth and poverty reduction.
“India’s Aadhaar programme is today a model for many countries and recent initiatives like Digital India has the potential to generate greater digital dividends among all sections of its society,” Ruhl said. He however added that reaping full benefits will need affordable and wider access to the internet and skills that enable all workers to leverage the digital economy. ENS