About 950 million Indians are out of reach Internet: Study


Mobile data plans in India are among the cheapest in the world and the average retail price of smartphones are steadily declining, yet the Internet is out of the reach of nearly 950 million Indians, according to ASSOCHAM-Deloitte joint study.

Internet penetration is increasing in India, the access to affordable broadband, smart devices and monthly data packages is required to spread digital literacy to make their ends meet, noted the study titled ‘Strategic national measures to combat cybercrime,’ jointly conducted by ASSOCHAM and research firm Deloitte.

Existing government infrastructure assets should be further leveraged for provision of digital services at remote locations. Digital literacy needs to be increased by providing institutional trainings in schools, colleges and universities; accelerating partnerships with global technology leaders and using the workforce trained under Skill India to impart trainings. An integrated approach between Digital India and Skill India needs to be constructed to design programmes and impart training.

The government should increase awareness regarding the value add of technology to increase technology adoption. The benefits of technology such as increase in the standard of living of the weaker sections of society and enhancing financial inclusion should be communicated to citizens.

Private sector players should be incentivized to develop infrastructure, provide services and promote digital literacy as part of the Digital India program. Start-ups should be involved to create and customize apps to local needs to increase adoption of digital technology, adds the joint study.

India has over 1,600 languages and various dialects. This diversity has resulted in strong language barriers. In areas where people only use local languages, integration of local language and technology is required to drive digital literacy.

Fear of cybercrime and breach of privacy has been a deterrent in adoption of digital technologies in India. In order to encourage people to switch to digital means, it is important to provide awareness and education on cyber security, risks and safeguarding of information on the internet.

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Mobile platforms and internet enabled programs should be used to improve the accessibility of training programmes. Credibility and recognition of certifications provided by various initiatives is key to successful development of digital literacy.

Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) associated with sub-sectors should get industry inputs on curriculum, trainings and services. Further, industry players should be compelled to recognize the credibility of certificates issued, noted the study.

The various stakeholders (different government programs, ministries, institutions, industries etc.) involved in imparting digital literacy need to work in coordination to obtain the most effective implementation. This will require transparency of information, workflow management and timely updates on the progress of various factions.

A framework needs to be defined for participation of the private sector in skill development programs which defines the role of the private sector, expectations in terms of investments, content and job guarantees.

Skill training and digital literacy should be introduced as part of institutional trainings in schools, colleges and universities across India. Curriculum and interactive programmes should be mandated to ensure adequate digital skills of all graduates. Skill building for Digital India Building skills required to achieve the Digital India vision.

India faces a severe shortage of well trained and skilled workers. It is estimated that only 2.3% of the workforce in India has undergone formal skill training versus over 50% in the developed countries. This shortage is accentuated in the electronic and digital sectors.

However, to achieve inclusive growth, skilled and well-trained manpower is critical. Several strides have been made towards developing the right skills required to support Digital India and e-governance initiatives.

The top barriers to adoption of technologies in the economically weaker sections of society as well as in MSMEs include cost and affordability. Most telecom operators so far have not invested significantly in development of high speed access networks in rural areas. Similarly, MSMEs also have low awareness of government and stakeholder schemes that could lead to numerous benefits.

A key hindrance to adoption of technology is the low rate of digital literacy in India. Several initiatives undertaken by the government and other organisations are expected to improve the digital literacy rate in the coming years which will in turn result in an increase in adoption of technology and digital services.

While there has been an increase in localized content and applications, content still remains limited in several local and regional languages. Most applications that exist have been driven by the government. Private sector involvement remains limited to proof of concepts (PoCs) in limited test environments.

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