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India slips in internet ranking, is worst performer among competing BRICS nations: UNESCO broadband report

By Rajiv Shah
Even when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was meeting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as part of his effort to gather international support for his high-profile Digital India campaign, a new report, sponsored jointly by UNESCO and International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and released by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, has found that India has slipped in global ranking for the use of internet, both broadband and internet in general.
The report, “State of Broadband 2015: Broadband as Foundation of Sustainable Development”, dated September 2015, ranks India 131st in the fixed broadband subscription category and 155th in the mobile broadband subscription category among 189 nations of the world. The report says that India has 1.2 per 100 capita fixed and 5.5 mobile per 100 capita broadband penetration.
A comparison with BRICS nations suggests as India ranks worst both in fixed and mobile broadband. In fixed broadband, Russia ranks 56th with 17.5 per 100 capita, China 67th with 14.4 per 100 capita, Brazil 76th with 11.5 per 100 capita, and South Africa 110th with 3.2 per 100 capita. And as for mobile broadband, Brazil 27th with 78.1 per 100 capita, Russia 40th with 65.9 per 100 capita, South Africa 69th with 46.7 per 100 capita, and China 78th with 41.8 per 100 capita.
The earlier report, released exactly a year ago, in September 2014, had found that India ranked 125th in fixed broadband subscription with 1.2 per 100 capita penetration, and 113th in mobile broadband subscription with a 3.2 per capita penetration, suggesting a sharp slip internationally on both the counts. The data come close on the heels of experts doubting the possibility of Digital India’s ability to take internet to every doorstep in India, a goal Modi has set for himself.
Prepared by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, the report is has been prepared in response to the UN Secretary-General’s call to step up efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Established in May 2010, the Commission unites government leaders, top industry executives, thought leaders, policy pioneers, international agencies and organizations concerned with development.
The 2015 report also finds that, with 15.3 per cent of households having internet, India ranks No 80 among 133 developing countries. The 2014 report had had found that, with 13 per cent households having internet, India ranked No 75 among developing countries. The only consolation for India is, in Pakistan, 13 per cent households have internet connections, with its ranking being 83rd among developing countries. Sri Lanka’s household internet penetration is equal to that of India.
Further, the 2015 report finds that in India 18 per cent individuals use internet, but this is worse than 135 other nations out of a total of 191. Iceland tops the list with 98.2 per cent individuals using internet, followed by Norway 96.3 per cent, and Denmark 96 per cent. In United Kingdom 91.6 per cent individuals use internet, in Japan 90.6 per cent, in the United States 87.4 per cent, and so on.
Coming to the BRICS countries on this score, again, India is again the worst performer. In in Russia 60.5 per cent individuals use internet (ranking No 44), in Brazil 57.6 per cent (ranking No 68), in China 49.3 per cent (ranking No 82), and in South Africa 49 per cent (ranking No 84).

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