Thanks to India’s 1.2 billion population, the country figures among the top two or three adapters of digital technologies and social media. From the number of mobile Internet users and smartphone users to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, India is right up there. Yet, these top rankings don’t tell the whole story. A woefully inadequate public WiFi infrastructure ensures Internet is out of reach of millions. India has just around 31,600 hotspots, nowhere near global average of one hotspot for 150 people. And despite the cheapest data rates in the world, Internet access isn’t as common as a fast-moving consumer product. The reasons range from expensive smartphones, lack of awareness about the Internet to the reluctance to spend more for data access.
For instance, it’s surprising 65 million people send money via expensive and time-consuming postal money orders, with little or no awareness about digital payments or how to do it even if they have heard of it. And 100 million cheques are signed every year. Money orders and cheques have moved into history in most of the developed world. Can India leapfrog too? It’s well documented that high-speed broadband Internet use leads to faster economic growth. Now it’s up to India to get there — at digital speed.