Rural-urban divide is quite big, says M Johnson, deputy secretary general, ITU

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New Delhi | Published: April 6, 2017 5:41:35 AM

Malcolm Johnson, deputy secretary-general, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), spoke on the sidelines of a Ficci seminar on Digital India.

Malcolm Johnson, deputy secretary-general, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), spoke on the sidelines of a Ficci seminar on Digital India.

Malcolm Johnson, deputy secretary-general, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), spoke on the sidelines of a Ficci seminar on Digital India. He spoke about the various incentives the government can provide apart from helping other developing nations to help grow internet penetration. Excerpts:

What, according to you, are the initiatives that the government can take to further raise the penetration of internet in India, especially in rural India?

Connecting people in the rural areas is very important in developing countries. The rural-urban divide is quite big and it is unfair to compare the spending power of the two sets of consumers. Affordability is a critical issue issue in the hinterland. With services such as e-health and education being a priority for the government, it needs to subsidise the cost of connectivity for people in rural areas to be able to benefit from public service. Hence, the government should provide certain incentives to the telecom industry so that it is able to invest in roll-out of network in rural areas. There are a variety of incentives including providing tax incentives on imported equipment, on the service, call charges, international call charges etc.

You urged India to take up a leadership role at international platforms organised by ITU to help other developing countries in raising the penetration of Internet. What’s the idea behind it?

Whenever India participates in international forums, it seems to generate a lot of support, as everyone knows the size of the market besides being aware of the fact that the information and communications technology (ICT) is a vibrant sector. As India is a developing country, the issues and concerns faced by it is similar to other developing nations.

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