The Internet and mobile revolution has levelled the playing field for countries around the world, especially countries like India and China that have been the biggest beneficiaries. Instant communication, access to information and e-commerce has opened up a world of possibilities that have catapulted India into the big league. This section presents some interesting figures and insights about Internet in India in the present and future potential.
Total Internet Connections & Penetration
By latest estimates (May 2016) and by different accounts, it is safe to estimate that there are over 450 million Internet users in India. This is an impressive figure by any standard, and places India second in the list of global internet population below China. The figure is even more impressive when you consider that India has added over 100 million internet users in the last year alone! The numbers were abysmal in the past with less than 50 million just 7 years ago, and we have certainly come a long way from there.
Internet usage in India is also shifting from the more traditional and conservative use of Internet to a means of commerce, transactions and e-governance. The success of e-commerce portals like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Jabong etc. and e-payment providers like PayTM in India proves the point, this has also paved the way for more ecommerce offerings.
However, the Internet penetration in India is low, just 34% compared to 50% in China, 84% in the US and lower than the global average of 42%. This is a challenge, but also an opportunity for the government and ISPs (Internet service providers) to up the game and increase the penetration. The low penetration can also be seen as great potential by international players looking to set-up their presence in India, since the numbers are bound to cross 700 million internet users in the next couple of years and with that a world of opportunity.
Mobile Internet Connections
The current mobile internet population in India stands at over 160 million (according to various sources like IAMAI, IMRB and KPMG) which is close to 50% of the total internet population in India. This number is expected to swell to 315 million by the end of 2017, and that number alone is impressive.
The mobile internet revolution has been largely driven by the phenomenal growth of smartphone adoption across the country. The rise in demand for smartphones has been fuelled by the improvement in performance and utility (the amount of things that you can do with a smartphone that makes it an alternative to a PC), and of course dwindling costs. A power-packed smartphone comparable in features to an iPhone is now available for less than Rs. 10000 by a variety of Indian and Chinese manufacturers. The demand for smartphones can also be attributed to the increase in demand for Internet services like chatting, social media, entertainment and convenience services like mobile-banking and travel reservation services that are now accessible via apps.
The government is also doing its bit to increase mobile internet usage, thanks to the Digital India initiative which is setting the ground rules and infrastructure for empowering more Indians to benefit from the digital revolution.
Challenges and Conclusion
As Internet has become synonymous and ubiquitous, the average Internet speed around the world has also gone up significantly thus becoming a medium for delivering high quality entertainment and services. A service like Netflix for example requires a minimum of 5 Megabits per second to deliver decent quality video (HD), and it is a shame that the average internet speed in India is about 2 megabits per second, which is a far cry. .
"At an average speed of 2 Mbps, India ranks at a poor 115th in the world which makes this figure alarming. The average Internet speed in the world is 3.9 Mbps or about double the Indian internet speed"
Even worse, the average ISP has the gall to advertise a 4 Mbps connection as high speed. Then there is also the draconian FUP (fair usage policy), which limits the amount of data that can be consumed in a month before it reverts to a low speed connection.
This is a big impediment and limits both usage experience and service viability, and must be dealt with immediately if India wants to stride forward in its global digital aspiration.
Even with the challenges and the slow pace with which India's Internet and digital aspirations move forward, there is no denying that the future of India and her global ambitions will be driven largely by a good foundation in digital.