India, which recently celebrated its 68th Republic Day, is focusing heavily on promoting a cashless economy and increasing digital literacy, and rightly so. Though the country has the second highest number of Internet users, it still has a long way to go as far as Internet penetration is concerned. For some perspective, the country has a population of more than 1.3 billion, and the total number of Internet users is reportedly just around 462 million as of 2016. This means the Internet penetration is about 37%, which is shockingly low. The Digital India campaign thus holds major significance considering the current digital climate in the country.
In a bid to share the story of digitization over the last decade and a half, BRIDGEi2i’s Vizards have created visualizations on Tableau. The visualization below shows the relative impact of the Internet across the globe. China, India, and the US are the countries with the highest number of Internet users (in that order). The visualization also covers the following insights:
- Fixed broadband penetration
- Internet penetration and GDP rank
- Penetration of mobile cellular subscription
To interact with the visualization, follow the link: http://tabsoft.co/2kMSE5N
The second visualization below focuses completely on India. The major insights relate to social media app usage, digital payment channels, digital payment versus offline payment, and general online behavior.
In an effort to improve the digital climate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the Digital India campaign in motion in July 2015. Soon after, many high-profile CEOs, both home-bred and non-native, expressed their interest in investing in the campaign. The Indian government has received about $50 billion (3.3 lakh crores) so far, Reliance Industries and the Aditya Birla Group being the top contributors.
There are three primary goals of the campaign:
- To improve IT infrastructure across the country
- To promote the widespread use of digital services
- To increase digital literacy, especially in rural areas
To further promote a digitized economy, Prime Minister Modi announced a disruptive new policy on November 8, 2016, which shook the 1.3 billion strong nation. On the same day, at the stroke of midnight, he declared that all Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes would cease to be legal tender. That was 86% of the currency notes in circulation. This demonetization move had two more objectives – to cripple the black market, which primarily depends on hard cash, and ensure that citizens are paying their taxes.
As per a study by the industry lobby group Assocham and business consulting firm RNCOS, the average retail transaction will likely increase from Rs. 500-700 in 2016 (pre-demonetization) to Rs. 2,000-10,000 in the near future. Also, mobile wallet transactions will probably grow from 5 crores in 2016 to 26,000 crores in 2022, which is a YoY increase of 160%. As incredible as these figures seem, we are just talking statistics. The nation still has a lot to achieve in terms of overcoming infrastructural hindrances like poor or limited Internet speeds and unreliable networks.
Even when developing countries are taken into consideration, India lags far behind with regard to average Internet speed. The average speed in the country is just 4.1 Mbps, while the speeds in countries such as Sri Lanka and Thailand are 6 Mbps and 11.7 Mbps, respectively. Moreover, a joint study by Assocham and Deloitte stated that 950 million people in India don’t have Internet access despite the availability of affordable mobile data plans and smartphones as well.
The adoption of cloud services, business analytics platforms, and network virtualization technologies is set to increase significantly in India. However, Digital India will become a true success only when last-mile connectivity becomes a reality. The government, along with private stakeholders, must work toward improving tele-density and Internet availability, especially in rural areas. TRAI has reported that Internet availability is at 51% in rural areas and 153% in urban areas. Fixing this massive imbalance would subsequently lead to a constant increase in digital literacy and thus pave the way for transitioning into a digitized economy.