The internet subscriber base in the country is set to touch the billion mark by the end of 2020, PP Choudhary, minister of state, ministry of law and justice, electronics and information, said on Wednesday at the ‘Digital India for sustainable development’ seminar organised by Ficci in the Capital. Currently, the internet subscriber base stands at around 500 million.
“From half a billion internet users currently in the country, we expect the number to reach 1 billion by end of 2020. We are working towards creating a digital India. The digital India programme is based on three pillars — creating digital infrastructure, service on demand and e-governance, apart from empowerment of masses,” Choudhary said.
He added that technology can be used to resolve the various challenges faced in two critical sectors — health and education. “The power of digital can used to disseminate education related content to the 83 million population living in the rural areas. “The content should be in regional language and in 3D animation format, so it is easier to understand,” he explained.
Echoing similar sentiments, Malcolm Johnson, deputy secretary-general, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said, “In India, less than 40% people who use mobile phones have access to the internet. We have a situation today where connecting to the internet is not a problem, as much as about the fact that people are not aware of the benefits of being connected to the internet. One way to make them aware is creating content in national language.”
Johnson emphasised on India increasing its involvement in ITU to further develop its programmes such as Digital India, Make in India and Start-up India. “In addition to further develop these initiatives, India, by taking a leadership role in the ITU, can also help the least developed countries in growing the penetration of the internet,” he added.
The Express Group executive director Anant Goenka said while the government is working towards increasing the penetration of the internet in the country, the choice with regard to what one wants to read rests in the hands of the consumers more than it ever was before. “The reality is that the 800 million Indians who are under the age of 35, have never seen the world more polarised. Spin the globe and place your finger on a country of your choice. Vietnam, Philippines, Turkey, France, USA, UK and maybe controversially even India. Not, in a long time, has public discourse been so contentious. Political arguments often end in abusive fights and there’s no seeing any other points of view. And I believe that one of the primary reasons for this is because we don’t know how to navigate the internet’s large, fast-paced, wide-laned information highways. And as editors, we don’t have the ability to be traffic wardens like we once did. If you read a piece that supports Trump’s worldview on climate change for instance, the editor’s instinct is to suggest your next piece be one that is critical of it. Just to give you both sides of the story. An algorithm, however, recognises that you are more likely to read another one that supports the same perspective, and so it keeps feeding you content that seems to strengthen and agree with your worldview. So no one meets in the middle, we just get pulled to both sides. The onus, therefore, is on you the reader today — more than it ever was before — to proactively make choices on what you are reading,” Goenka said.
Gulshan Rai, chief of cyber security in the IT ministry, said, “While the government has approved cyber security framework, we need more participation from the private sector.
In fact, the private sector’s role has become more important with cloud service being used now. Together, both the parties need to work to create a strong security framework,” explained Rai.