As the nation is going through this phase of Corona crisis, many meticulously placed infrastructure efforts taken up during Modi 1.0 are proving to be of immense help to reach out the needy, even in the remotest places of the country. Jan Dhan, Common Service Centres, Direct Benefit Transfer are some of the instruments either started or strengthened post-2014. All these initiatives have imbibed into themselves the Digital India vision, wherein technology, specifically JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) trinity, removed leakages by reaching out directly to the beneficiaries.
But the naysayers still ask- How can you expect the rural population to be well-versed with modern technology? Do villages have internet penetration to really ensure that they benefit from all these initiatives?
A recent survey report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI) & Nielsen conclusively busts all such myths and apprehensions and validates the fact that Digital India is indeed blooming in rural India in a fast-paced manner.
No Digital Divide Between Rural and Urban
The study makes some important points regarding the internet penetration in rural India:
- Even though the Internet penetration in urban areas is higher, Rural penetration grew at a faster rate at 18% in Nov’19 compared to Mar’19. As of Nov’19.
- For the first time we see that with close to 227 million internet users in rural India, which is approximately 10% more than those in urban India, the digital divide which existed between rural and urban India is no longer there.
- Even though the Internet users in rural are more than those in urban, there is immense headroom in rural areas for growth, which will further contribute to an increase in the overall Internet population over the next few years.
While observing the current trends of internet usage in rural India, the report predicts the path of future evolution in rural market, which again validates the efforts of Indian government of its Digital India initiatives. The report says that:
“With activities like Social networking / Chatting and entertainment contributing to most of the usage in rural market, the next wave of growth would be seen in activities like watching / reading news online and Email in the rural market as the users become more evolved in the rural market.”
Penetration in States – Another Supportive Trend for Digital India
The vision of this government is that internet and modern technology should be used to address governance issues, especially ushering in development in areas that were neglected before.
The internet penetration study brings optimism and reason to cheer on this front too. The states which were traditionally looked as backward are seeing increasing internet penetration. Sample this from the study:
“Eastern states together seen 24% increase in the Internet population in Nov’19 compared to Mar’19. Jharkhand and Bihar witnessed 48% and 36% increase in internet population respectively, which is higher compared to any other Indian States.”
The increasing internet penetration among the youth, especially from rural India, holds a hope that they can be exposed to new knowledge and skills using this medium.
Regular Use of Internet
Even in rural India more than 60% people are accessing the internet on daily basis.
Do the rural folks really well enough to buy mobile handsets with internet connections – critics often ask. Well, cheap handsets are driving access to internet, as could be clearly seen in data presented by the report. Irrespective of urban or rural areas, everybody is accessing 4G these days, as the report points out also points out.
Even though this IAMI – Nielsen study, powered by Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2019, has been apparently focusing to find out media consumption patterns across India, it becomes relevant in highlighting perspectives of governance as well. It validates the Digital India initiative of the Modi government and holds hope for the further utilization of the various government programmes to bring change at the grassroots using internet and modern communication methods.