Archive for ‘Connecting India – The Mobile Series’

January 2, 2012

Mobile Post #2: Case for providing end-user subsidy for data

In the previous blog post, we established that internet connectivity is critical for development and democracy and therefore it should be a priority for the government to ensure that India’s population is connected in the most efficient manner as soon as possible. In this post, we establish that the fastest and the cheapest way of achieving that could to be to use existing 2G and 2.5G infrastructure in the country.

The current government plan to get India connected via internet is to create new infrastructure by laying down fiber optic backhaul to every Gram Panchayat (GP) over the next 3 – 5 years, that is over 250,000 villages in total. The government has been pondering this idea for quite some time now, and the Department of Telecom in conjunction with other ministries has debated various solutions. The Confederation of Indian Industry, in partnership with Analysys Mason, and supported by a variety of telecom operators and vendors presented an extremely detailed proposal to the government on this last year. One of the key findings of the paper was that it is indeed critical for the government to intervene and enable deep broadband connectivity as all countries with successful or rapidly developing broadband penetration have benefited from government investments in infrastructure to kick start the growth, especially when broadband is at less than 10 – 20% penetration. The paper also estimated the cost for providing this fibre access at INR 17,500 cr. While this is a large enough, the USO Fund has enough to cover it.

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December 18, 2011

Mobile Post #1: Why is connecting India critical for development and democracy?

When was the last time you checked an important email? Or looked up a question you had on Google, or something you weren’t sure of on Wikipedia? Or even bought a railway or plane ticket on a website? In fact, when was the last time you were politically active thanks to online social media? Chances are that you have done some if not all of these in the last one month, if not the last hour. Aided by the power of the internet/mobile, you now have access to combined human knowledge, efficient service and powerful self-expression at the click of a mouse or a tap on the phone. Unfortunately, Matt and Tushar could not have the privilege of this universal access channel at Rs. 32 a day. And its not just their story, the large majority of your fellow Indians who could really benefit from being connected today remain dark. And its not the cost of having a handset/access device, its not even availability of connectivity, its the cost of data usage that keeps them out. But before we analyze that and try to present solutions, its important to identify how and if at all, being connected is important for development in India. How valid is the promised goodness of the Internet Protocol? Could being connected really uplift the Human Development Index? Could it lead to better governance and a stronger democracy?

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December 5, 2011

Connecting India – The Mobile Series

We have been asked often, what we missed the most during our stint with poverty. Besides a healthy diet, the answer is clear: “you can maybe survive, but not live a life of aspirations”. What do aspirations mean? To us, they mean having access to knowledge and information, healthcare access and awareness, and communication and mobility. Basically tools that can help us remain healthy, enhance our awareness and skills and give us the freedom to follow our dreams and preserve our rights. Tools that remain out of bounds at Rs. 32 a day.

Until now, the government has tried to assist in these avenues for the poor who cannot hope to pay for these services by creating large-scale infrastructural interventions. However, in the last few years, if not months, a silent revolution has taken place in India – one that of universal mobile access. With 900 million subscribers, feature-phones under Rs. 1000, call costs at 1 paise/second and 95%+ cellular coverage, people have access to a unique portal that can act as a gateway for many of these “aspirational services” and can help create a more accountable, efficient governance and a more inclusive democracy. However, this not happen on its own, as we have clearly witnessed the inability to pay for anything but the most essential calls at Rs. 32 a day. “Connecting India – The Mobile Series” posts are about what intervention can be made to get the country connected efficiently and meaningfully and utilize the incredible potential of mobiles towards enhancing our country’s Human Development Index.

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