Can India rank among Top 30 in ICT Development Index?

As per the 2013 report, Korea leads the world in terms of overall ICT development Index (IDI) for the third consecutive year, followed closely by Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Norway. The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Hong Kong (China) also rank in the top 10, with the UK nudging into the top 10 group from 11th position last year.

All countries in the IDI Top 30 are high-income countries and there is a strong link between income and ICT progress but India has to do something different if it has to be among IDI Top 30 countries. India has to improve connectivity challenges and increase its broadband penetration at an increased pace, both in wireless as well as wireline connections.

Once ICT infrastructure improves, India can utilize this infrastructure for health, education, employment and others, and record above average improvements in their IDI rank as done in the last twelve months by countries like: United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Barbados, Seychelles, Belarus, Costa Rica, Mongolia, Zambia, Australia, Bangladesh, Oman and Zimbabwe. It is heartening to see, Bangladesh doing a good job in terms of broadband connectivity in the SAARC region whereas countries liek India has not taken leadership position.

NOFN (national optical fiber network) is a beautiful concept but it has to be rolled out at a fast pace to reap the benefits of broadbanding Bharat. Even BWA (broadband wireless access) operators have not been able to rollout services in a large way. The policy makers need to work in tandem with the operators and iron out the problems at a fast pace so that broadband services can be rolled out so that we can catch up with other countries.

“This year’s IDI figures show much reason for optimism, with governments clearly prioritizing ICTs as a major lever of socio-economic growth, resulting in better access and lower prices,” said Dr Hamadoun I Toure, secretary general, ITU.

Our most pressing challenge is to identify ways to enable those countries which are still struggling to connect their populations to deploy the networks and services that will help lift them out of poverty added Toure.

The acceptability of broadband will increase in India if broadband prices reduce significantly and also quality of broadband service increases by many fold. In last four years, as per ITU report fixed-broadband prices fell by 82 per cent overall, from 115.1 per cent of average monthly income per capita in 2008 to 22.1 per cent in 2012. And the biggest drop occurred in developing countries, where fixed-broadband prices fell by 30 per cent year on year between 2008 and 2011. India also has to replicate the same drop in prices even in wireless broadband.

India has to follow the Australian model as Australia has the world’s most affordable mobile broadband among all the countries. Other countries that rank well for mobile broadband affordability include Qatar, the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait and France. The global broadband affordability target set in 2011 by the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for digital development aims to bring the cost of entry level broadband service to less than 5 percent of average monthly income. In case of India, if the cost of entry level broadband connections can be brought to 3-4 percent it will definitely help in increasing broadband penetration in the country.

At the beginning of 2013 almost 80 per cent of households globally had a TV, compared with 41 per cent of households with a computer and 37 per cent with Internet access and I believe the same holds true for India. The policy maker and operator need to see how they can convert existing TV into a broadband device as it willl help in increasing broadband pentration in the country at a rapid pace and catch up with other developing economies.

ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI) ranks countries according to their level of ICT access, use and skills and is widely recognized by government, UN agencies and industry as the most accurate and impartial measure of overall national ICT development. The IDI is divided into three sub-indices: the access sub-index, the use sub-index and the skills sub-index, each capturing different aspects and components of the ICT development process.

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