Akamai's State of the Internet Report rates Indian states.
The following appears this week as a guest column at www.andhrabusiness.com this week:
By Anand Parthasarathy
Akamai Technologies, a global leader in the business of powering enterprise applications and transactions online, recently released its latest “State of the Internet” report, for India, a quarterly monitor of how we compare with other nations in harnessing the world wide web. For want of any other systematic study of Internet penetration in India, the Akamai report is about the best that is available. You can, like anyone else, download the full report at www.akamai.com/stateoftheinternet . But if you are based in Andhra Pradesh or have a stake in the state of any kind, you must be masochist to do so.
Why? Because in a departure from earlier editions of the Akamai study, the current report ( for 3rd quarter 2009), rates the top ten Indian states for the average speed of their Internet connections.
One is normally on safe ground in assuming that the leading Indian states in the information technology business, are also the states with the best and fastest broadband infrastructure. Safe yes, but not sure – because a joker in the pack can become a game changer.
In the latest report, that exception in Andhra Pradesh. It is not among the states with the fastest connections. It is bottom of the class. That’s right: number 10 among the top ten.
The average Internet connection in India is a bad enough statistic: 895 kilo bits per second (KBPS), that makes it slower than 96 other countries. The fastest state speed-wise, in India is Kerala whose average connection speed of 1386 KBS at least qualifies as broadband -- that is 1000 KBPS or 1 MBPS or better -- even if it is way below the global average of 1.7 MBPS.
Karnataka, the state to whom Andhra provides a stiff fight for global IT business , scrapes into the broadband league with 1.041 MBPS. But the home state of Cyberabad logs average speeds of 643 KBPS.
Even Kashmir is better connected and so is Haryana – though neither state trumpets its IT prowess.
Reverse gear: Dig a little deeper and the Andhra situation seems even more alarming: while Internet infrastructure palpably improves in most parts of India, with a consequent increase in connection speeds, Andhra Pradesh seems to go careering off in reverse gear: The report says, speeds in the state are declining by 18 percent, year on year, again a dubious record for the highest negative trend among the top ten states in India.
This can’t be good. In a state where global giants like Microsoft set up their largest operations outside their own country, for pragmatic reasons, Internet like mobile connectivity is a litmus test of development. And not just for the big technology companies: It is now well understood that Internet is a key parameter for self empowerment in what is increasingly becoming a global information society. If Andhra Pradesh lags behind in this parameter, that should be seen as an amber signal, not just by those who have a stake in the state’s success in the global IT ‘maidan’ but by all who are profess to work for the basic welfare of her people.
Cyberabad’s techie community already feels let down by the lack of adequate power supply, the challenged infrastructure and the tense working environment due to almost daily hartals and disruptions. But the IT industry, at least, has the option, to fold its tent and march away. The people of Andhra Pradesh have no such option – and a day will come when an abysmally slow connection to the umbilical that is Internet, translates into a second rate quality of life for them.
When the late Dhirubhai Ambani, coined a phrase -- Roti, Kapda, Makaan aur Internet -- he may have been just attempting to dramatise a new business. But he was ahead of his time in seeing the central role that the Net would play as a lifeline for millions of Indians. Today, politicians of all shades recognise the essential truth of that phrase. Let’s hope those who make their home in Andhra Pradesh, act on the warning implicit in the latest Internet statistics.
Feb 6 2010