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Digital India: Our Net connect is still below par

Sourjya Bhowmick | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 4:59 IST

Every other day you hear about another startup company making a splash. And so many of them depend on the Internet to do their stuff.

Be it buying books or a movie ticket, catching the headlines of the hour, shopping for apparel and accessories or just chatting away with friends. Online is the ecosystem where more and more Indians spend a sizeable chunk of their time.

But the booming Digital India story may hit a bump if we go by a new report from the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

The commission is an initiative by the International Telecommunication Union and the Unesco. The report ranks India 131 (out of 189 countries) for fixed broadband subscriptions and 155 in mobile subscriptions in 2014.

Worse, the rankings indicate a drop of 6 and 42 places, respectively, from 2013. Here is some more lowdown:


  • -of every 100 Indian has a broadband subscription.
  • The number has been static for a year.
  • India still slipped 6 ranks as others have progressed.
  • Thailand, an economy our size, had 8.2 Net subscribers per 100 citizens last year, up from 7.4 in 2013.
  • Monaco (44.7), Switzerland (43) and Denmark (40.2) top the list. Twenty countries had zero subscribers per 100.
  • No country has 50 subscribers per capita.


  • Indians among every 100 subscribes to Internet on their mobile devices.
  • The top 15 countries have more than 100 connections per 100 people.
  • Mobile Internet is growing fast globally - Singapore had 156 connections per 100 people, up from 135 in 2013. The island country, however, slipped to No. 2.
  • India does better only compared with conflict zones and sub-Saharan Africa.


  • of every 100 Indian households were connected to the worldwide web in 2014.
  • India ranked 80 among 133 countries in 2014, slipping by five points from 2013.
  • South Korea (98%) and Qatar (96%) had the highest household Internet penetration in the last two years.


  • out of every 100 Indians used Internet in 2014, up from about 15% in 2013.
  • This is the only indicator where India has made considerable improvement: from No. 142 to No. 136.
  • Scandinavian countries (Sweden at more than 95% penetration) have consistently had high number of Internet users.
  • Even war ravaged Sudan and Syria fared better than India.


  • rural households have no Internet access, according to the National Sample Survey Organisation.
  • Kerala has the highest rural Internet accessibility (3%), followed by Himachal Pradesh (2%).
  • Social media usage in rural India, however, doubled between 2014 and 2015 to about 25 million. But India is trailing developing economies like China, South Africa and Mexico.


  • of social media users in India are college students.
  • The next biggest group is 'young men' (27%), followed by 'school-going children' (12%).
  • More than 60% of all social media users access Internet through mobile phones.


  • of Indian users will access the Internet only through mobile devices by the end of 2015, according to the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS).
  • More than 90% of India is still not connected though, hindering the Web's economic contribution.


  • is the amount spent on Internet by urban consumers for content and services, according to Subho Ray, President, The Internet and Mobile Association of India.
  • Indian consumers spend an average 4.5 hours a day on offline channels, primarily through mobile phones, Ray said.
  • The stark reality is that 50,000 villages are still not covered by mobile services


  • solutions that can provide a way out, according to the CIS:
  • Introduce Internet-based applications in areas like agriculture and healthcare
  • Increase digital literacy
  • Reduce cost of Internet access
  • Improve infrastructure for low-cost, high-speed connectivity in semi-urban and rural India.

First published: 26 September 2015, 2:16 IST
Sourjya Bhowmick @sourjyabhowmick

Born and raised in Kolkata, Sourjya is all about the numbers. He uses data to contextualise stories on a broad range of topics. Formerly with the Hindustan Times and IndiaSpend, any time not spent researching and writing is spent reading non-fiction and tackling his unending collection of films. An alumnus of Presidency College, Kolkata, he has a post-grad degree in Political Science from Calcutta University and was actively involved in student politics. He's a fan of Tintin comics, Germany's football team, Mohun Bagan and Old Monk.