Internet penetration in India: Intel turbocharged

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Sep 30 2013, 16:06pm hrs
The global tech community might acknowledge India as an IT superpower, but the countrys performance at providing basic computer skills and internet access to its citizens to drive personal growth has been far from satisfactory. Consider a few facts:

Internet penetration in India is an insignificant 10%. The internet is primarily being usedthat too in urban areasas a medium for social networking and entertainment in India, while its immense potential in enabling widespread access to education, healthcare, employability and access to government services is still largely untapped.

A McKinsey report states that there will be 330 million Indians on the internet in 2015, making it the second largest connected population in the world, however even with that number Indias internet penetration will be a mere 28%. Whats more surprising is that for India to reach 40% internet penetration, a number that will match Chinas penetration at that time, it will need to notch up more than 500 million internet users! This is no easy task.

While the current situation is still grim, the silver lining in all is that, change is underway in multiple ways. Whether it is the governments commitment to the National IT Policy, which aims to provide affordable access to information and public services for enhancing efficiency, transparency and leverage the use of ICT as a driver for social inclusion or the roll out of the National Fibre Optic Network by Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL), which will connect 250,000 gram panchayats with true broadband by 2015.

From an industry perspective, the US chip maker Intel has undertaken some laudable initiatives towards accelerating digital literacy and providing the benefits of technology to the grass roots. Recently, the company concluded the second phase of its nationwide integrated campaign to spread the relevance of personal computing and drive adoption of technology amongst consumers. The campaign was focused on reaching out to potential first time buyers in the country with the aim of increasing awareness about the benefits of technology and accelerating PC usage. The second phase of the campaign reached out to 20 million households with the message of domestic digital adoption.

Sandeep Aurora, director, marketing and market development, Intel South Asia, said, We are immensely satisfied at the success of the second phase of the campaign. After the successful results in the first phase, where we covered 40 cities across the country and reached out to over 2 million customers by way of over 2 lakh demos showcased at the My Discoveries experience zones, we have been continuing our pursuit of driving domestic adoption of technology across the country and the effort in our second phase too, has met with great success.

In order to help make PCs more affordable and accessible, Intel has worked with the ecosystem comprising of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Acer, HCL, HP and Lenovo to offer exciting financing solutions as well as retailing and e-tailing offers. Intel has also worked with various broadband suppliers like Aircel, Reliance and MTS to provide exciting offers on internet connections and dongles.

In addition, Intel along with industry bodies such as Nasscom, and ecosystem players had launched a nationwide Literacy Mission in India last year in order to enhance digital literacy in the country. As part of this initiative, Intel along with its NGO partner Digital Empowerment Foundation launched the Follow the Fibre programme in October 2012 with the aim of making one person per household e-literate in the three villages that received the National Optic Fiber Network namely Arain in Rajasthan, Naogang in North Tripura and Pravada in Andhra Pradesh. Over the last nine months, about 1,700 households from these three villages have been reached and have at least one e-literate member in the household.

Debjani Ghosh, managing director, Intel South Asia said, The work done in these three villages under the National Digital Literacy Mission gives us insights into the challenges at the grass roots and the impact that digital literacy can have on the lives of people. Intel has also introduced an Android based application of Intel Learn Easy Steps, its digital literacy training curriculum that focuses on the integration of technology in our daily lives in simple ways and teaches users how technology can improve productivity, employability and impact livelihood.

Intel has already trained over 1.7 million individuals in India over the last eighteen months using this curriculum. Currently, training using Intel Learn Easy Steps curriculum is offered face to face and is available online, however to scale digital literacy and take it to the next level at the grass roots, Intel has created an Android based application of the Intel Easy Steps curriculum that is freely available.

According to Intel officials, increasing awareness about what the internet can do in a way that is relevant to the audience is critical in accelerating technology adoption and this is where digital literacy comes in. Digital literacy does not imply knowing complex computer skills but refers to how technology can help citizens improve job skills, access better education or healthcare and government services and use technology in a way that can impact their livelihood and personal growth.