India fastest in bridging digital divide

By Sources   |   Monday, 18 September 2006, 07:00 Hrs
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HABARANA (Sri Lanka): LIRNEasia, a regional communication technology policy and regulation research organization opines that in order to improve the digital opportunity index (DOI), a tool for better measurement of the digital divide, India should replicate the urban competitive model in its mobile telephony segment in the rural areas.

Business Line reported this today. LIRNEasia seeks to improve the lives of Asians by facilitating their use of information and communications technology (ICT). They attempt to do this by catalyzing reform of rules and building Asia-based human capacity through research, training and advocacy.

On the sidelines of a six-nation LIRNEasia workshop being, New-Delhi based Senior Researcher Payal Malik, said that India is currently ranked 119 among 180 countries in the global DOI, behind nations such as Russia, China and Brazil, though India ranked first in terms of being able to bridge the domestic digital divide, when historical data gathered for 2001-2005 is considered.

The DOI incidentally is calculated on the same methodology as the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Program. Assuming a country had 60 mobile cellular subscribers per 100 inhabitants, and then the index value would be 0.6 (60/100).

The Digital Opportunity Index (DOI) was endorsed in the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, adopted during the Tunis Phase of 2nd World Summit on information Society (WSIS). It identified 11 indicators across three broad categories such as opportunity, infrastructure and utilization as yardsticks for the ranking exercise.

Explaining India’s primary rank in bridging the domestic digital divide, Malik said, “Competition drove down tariffs even as the major chunk of the opportunity index is defined by affordability and access to mobile telephony. While India did well on this score, the country performed poorly as the lack of competition in the fixed telephony sector impacted the rollout of basic infrastructure and Internet access.”

Significantly, while teledensity went up from two percent in 1999 to 12.80 percent earlier this year, it was the mobile sector – mostly in metros and States such as Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka and Punjab – that propelled the growth.

This becomes clear when one takes a look at the growth of the two sectors. As opposed to a 72.62 per cent growth of the mobile sector in 2005-06, the fixed telephony segment grew by 8.64 per cent.

According to Divakar Goswami, LIRNEasia’s Colombo-based Director in-charge-of Organizational Development & Projects, “India has to improve its ICT infrastructure as measured by the DOI indicators. If this is done, India can improve her ranking and move into the top 100 bracket in the global DOI rankings within two years.”

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