Slow factor in the social-economic development of a country.

Slow and delayed
infrastructure development is one of the greatest challenges for digital
evolution in India. India is a developing country and about 70% of Indians live
in rural areas. Even today, a major portion of the rural area lacks access to
internet. In India, the average Internet penetration is about 33% but it is
only about 16% in the rural areas. Digitalization of India cannot be achieved without
internet access. Among 139 countries, India has been ranked 91st on
the Networked Readiness Index 2016 (World Economic Forum). It has been estimated
that internet access is available only to 15 out of 100 households. According
to the Cellular Operators’ Association of India IMC-Deloitte report, India has
been ranked 36th in Internet inclusion based on affordability, availability,
readiness and relevance.  India also lags
behind many countries in broadband penetration with only 23% as of August,
2017. Studies show that broadband penetration is an important factor in the
social-economic development of a country. It has been estimated that if
broadband penetration increases to 60%, there could be possible increase of
5-6% in the GDP.

Over the past years, the
usage of mobiles in rural areas has been rising steadily in spite of poor
network connectivity. Though India has achieved more 350 million mobile
Internet users in a short period of less than a decade, much of it is
concentrated in the urban areas. The benefits of digitalization are multitude.
But so as to achieve digitalization, proper measures need to be taken. The
government proposed the ‘National Optical Fibre Network’ as its flagship
program. This program will connect 2,44,729
Gram Panchayats in the country through optical fibre cable (OFC). The program has
been allotted a budget of Rs 70,000 crores. The program has been under operation
for the past few years yet several villages are yet to reap its benefits. While
the government claims to have reached 61,000 villages, reports say only 7,000
of them have a working network. And as most of these 7,000-odd panchayats,
there are almost no users or usage of the internet. India continues to trail
the world’s major economies in telecom infrastructure and penetration.

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After the demonetisation
move made by the government, the people were encouraged to use e-Wallets and
make e-Payments. But e-Wallets can be used only if one has access to internet,
an internet-enabled phone, functional bank account and a credit/debit card. Freecharge,
Paytm and the newly launched Bhim app by the government cannot be used if the
consumer does not have internet connection. So, a major challenge to ‘Digital
India’ is lack of proper infrastructure.