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Internet access must for Digital India: Think tank

Internet access must for Digital India: Think tank

A PIF report says Digital India is a far-fetched dream if Internet access remains elusive for the masses.

New Delhi-based think tank Pahle India Foundation (PIF) has called for enactment of a 'right to Internet access' legislation to push the government's technology inclusion agenda. "Digital India talks of digitising services and not the reach of services. We need a technology inclusion programme where people can have access to the Internet for essential services," says the PIF report 'Digital Inclusion: Moving One Step Closer'.

The report, prepared on the basis of a sample primary survey of Internet users and non-users across four metros, says there is a need to make mobile Internet affordable for lower income groups and simultaneously spread awareness of the huge benefits of Internet usage. "We believe that pricing and provision of services are a job best left to the private sector and the government should let telecom companies figure out how they want to increase their user base, while ensuring that net-neutrality and security concerns are addressed," says  Rajiv Kumar, Founder Director, PIF.

PIF, in its report, asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to allow all possible business models that will bring competition and innovation in the market and bring down the cost of Internet access. "Stronger consumer protection and privacy laws would go a long way in overcoming the trust-deficit and build consumer confidence in using online services," the report adds.

The survey found that the most common use of mobile Internet was to access social networking sites. While 25 per cent of the respondents found mobile shopping popular, only 16 per cent preferred mobile banking. The main barriers among non-mobile Internet users were cost and lack of knowledge. About 19 per cent said they did not know how or what to do on the Internet.

Incidentally, India scores very low in the ICT (information and communications technology) Development Index prepared by the International Telecommunication Union. Among the 167 countries listed in the index, India's ranked 131 in 2015, while the other member countries of BRICS were ranked under 100. The poor score points to the challenges ahead of India in materialising its digital inclusion plan.