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India behind BRICS countries in internet readiness, slipping to No 91. Reason: Poor infrastructure, skills

By Our Representative
A new report by World Economic Forum (WEF) has said that despite “improvements” in India’s political and regulatory environment as also business and innovation environment, India has slipped down two positions to 91st rank in Network Readiness Index (NRI) – a term used for identifying information and communication technology (ICT) penetration.
WEF is one of the world’s most recognized Switzerland-based global institutions seeking to engage business, political and academic leaders for “improving” industry agendas. The organization from India which helped WEF prepare the report is the premier industry body, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).
The first ten countries identified in NRI ranking by the report, titled “Global Information Technology Report 2016 Innovating in the Digital Economy”, are Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Norway, United States, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Japan.
In Asia, the report says, apart from Singapore, the other five top countries region in terms of overall ICT readiness remain China, Malaysia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
The report finds that India is far behind all other BRICS countries, which are supposed to its main economic competitors, with Brazil ranking 72nd, Russia 41st, India 91st, China 59th and South Africa 65th. In all, 139 countries have been ranked.
India vis-a-vis lower middle income group average
The report notes that India has slipped despite the fact that India’s political and regulatory environment has improved (78th, up four), as also its business and innovation environment (110th, up five).
“Although India’s absolute score has changed only marginally in recent years, the drop can be attributed in part to the fact that other countries are moving ahead at higher speeds”, the report states.
It underlines, “In addition, lack of infrastructure (114th) and low levels of skills among the population (101st) remain the key bottlenecks to widespread ICT adoption, especially in terms of individual usage (120th).”
The report says, “A third of the Indian population is still illiterate (95th) and a similar share of youth is not enrolled in secondary education (103rd). Only 15 out of 100 households have access to the Internet and mobile broadband remains a privilege of the few, with only 5.5 subscriptions for every 100 people.”
This, the report believes, is happening “in spite of the fact that affordability has long been one of the strengths of the Indian ICT ecosystem, with the country ranking 8th this year in this area.”
The report underlines, “A deep divide persists between well-connected metropolitan hubs and remote rural areas, where even the most basic infrastructure is insufficient”, and in order to overcome this divide, in 2015 the government “launched the Digital India programme, which aims to close this gap by fostering investment in digital infrastructure, improving digital literacy, and increasingly providing online services to citizens.” 
India's ranking under four pillars of NRI index
“India’s performance in terms of providing online services and allowing e-participation has so far been in line with that of peer countries, but far from the global best (57th and 40th, respectively)”, the report states.
Based on a survey of 14,000 business executives, half of them belonging to international organizations, those that provided data for coming up with the report included the International Telecommunication Union, UNESCO and other UN agencies, and the World Bank.
The authors of the report – Silja Baller, Soumitra Dutta, and Bruno Lanvin – say, “The NRI data show that the minds of business executives around the world are increasingly focused on innovation, as reflected by the steady upward trend in firms’ perceived capacity to innovate.”

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