An IndiaTechOnline special analysis
Geneva & Bangalore, September 24, 2015: The top ten countries for household Internet penetration are all located in Asia or the Middle East even as more than half the world's population remains unconnected finds the 2015 edition of the State of Broadband report compiled by the Broadband Commission on behalf of the United Nations.
We carry the highlights alongside in our Image of the Day spot , but an India-centred study of the report that we have carried out reveals the huge gap between words and action in this country, when it comes to empowering 1.2 billion Indians with Internet.
Even more revealingly most of India's neighbours in the South Asia region, who face similar challenges and have comparable standards of living, have outstripped her in the speed and spread of their broadband penetration. Consider these numbers gleaned from the tables appended to the report.
Fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 population.( 2014 numbers)
India ranks # 131 out of 189 nations with 1.2 broadband subscriptions per 100. Only Pakistan ( 1.1) and Nepal ( 0.8) fare worse. Maldives heads this category in the region with 5.6; Bhutan has 3 times India's subscribers at 3.3; Sri Lanka has 2.6; Bangla Desh is same as India -- 1.2.
Mobile Broadband subscriptions per 100 population ( 2014 number)
India ranks # 156 with 5.5 mobile broadband subscribers. Only Pakistan (5.1 ) is worse off. All other neighbours have outrun India: Maldives 48.9; Bhutan 28.2; Nepal 17.4; Sri Lanka 13; Bangla Desh 6.4.
Individual Internet users as a percentage of population
India ranks # 136 with 18% of her population enjoying Internet access. Even Pakistan fares better at 138%.. At the top are Maldives with 49.3% which incidentally is the same as China; Bhutan 34.4%; Sri Lanka 25.8%; Nepal 15.4%. Somewhat anomalously Bangla Desh is rated as having just 9.6% of her population Net connected.
Ironically, some these nations that have outperformed India in the region -- like Bhutan, Nepal and Bangla Desh -- are categorised by the UN as the 50 'least developed' nations. Yet their resolve to lift themselves from this club by harnessing Internet is evident.
Meanwhile in India, progress since the 2011 adoption of the National Telecom Policy and the subsequent National Fibre Optic Network Plan appears to be fitful and tardy, belying the huge investments claimed to have been made in telecom infrastructure. Mobile subscriptions have crossed 1 billion, 2 months ago -- which is a reflection of lay Indians' aspiration to get connected. But affordable Internet is very much in the government's giving -- and judged on this parameter -- and going by the numbers of the State of Broadband report -- there are miles to go....