India trailing other BRIC nations on digital access

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 30, 2011 10:49 hrs

India is trailing the BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia and China in the drive to get its population connected to digital technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones, a new report shows.

The Digital Inclusion Index, provided by risk analysis firm Maplecroft, said India fell into the category of "extreme risk", meaning its population and economy was being stifled by a lack of "digital inclusion".

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Maplecroft used 10 indicators to judge the level of access to information communication technologies across 186 countries, including mobile and broadband subscriptions, fixed telephone lines and households with a computer and television.

India was ranked at 39, behind Russia on 134, Brazil on 110, and China on 103, which were all ranked as "medium risk".

Like the other BRIC nations, Indians have embraced the use of modern technologies and there is rampant demand particularly for mobile phones but much of that has come from the wealthier segment of the population based in urban areas.

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India had 771 million mobile subscribers as of January, and with monthly additions averaging 19 million in the past year, it is the world's fastest growing market.

But the disparity between urban and rural areas mean the roll out of third-generation phone services, which allow access to the Internet, will be of huge importance for rural areas as that is the most likely way that users will access the Internet there.

Maplecroft said the main barriers so far to a wider take-up were the cost, poor education and the lack of connectivity to many areas of the country.

The report said this trend had also been witnessed in the other BRIC nations but to a lesser degree. The Netherlands was at the top of the index, with Denmark at 185, Luxembourg at 184, Sweden at 183 and Britain at 182.

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Maplecroft said China had the highest total number of Internet users in the world, at 420 million, and is set to become the world's largest ICT market, but it warned that Internet freedom was still a serious issue.

"Despite the Chinese government's efforts to expand Internet connectivity across the nation having seen how it can aid economic growth, the Internet remains heavily controlled," it said.

Sub Saharan Africa was the worst performing region for the availability of digital services.

(Editing by David Cowell)

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