India Digital Summit 2008: Broadband connectivity key to Internet economy

By , agencyfaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | January 11, 2008
The panellists spoke about the dire need for good connectivity for Internet services to take off in India

On the & #BANNER1 & # first day of the IAMAI India Digital Summit 2008 held here on Thursday, the focus seemed to be on the ground realities facing the Internet growth story in the country. In his welcome address, IAMAI's chairman and chief executive officer of the Consim Info Group, J Murugavel, said, "We need to reach a critical mass of at least 10 million broadband users to enable rich media content on the Internet."

Reading out an in absentia speech on behalf of communications and IT minister A Raja, Dr Govind, senior director, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and IT, said, "The Department of Information Technology is now ready to take up the issue of Internet penetration. There is a need to build local language content and a robust infrastructure. To make non-users aware of Internet usage, the government will undertake measures such as Internet awareness campaigns in schools and workshops in small towns."

R Sivakumar
In the first session on Bridging the Digital Divide, R Sivakumar, managing director, South Asia, Intel, emphasised the importance of broadband for the Indian economy to become competitive. "In India today, the frustration with slow Internet speed and long response time is universal," he said. Sivakumar presented his prediction that by 2012, there would be 500 million Internet users in India and 100 million broadband connections. He added that wireless Internet access is the way forward, and that Intel expects 3.5 per cent of the Asian population to use this mode of access by 2010.

Aruna Sundararajan
Aruna Sundararajan, CEO of IL&FS and of the CSC Project of the Government of India, agreed that "there is an exciting growth story happening, but we need to do a reality check". The CSC, or Common Services Centres, Project aims to roll out 100,000 Internet access points in rural areas by March 2009. Another 10,000 will be rolled out in urban areas. If all works out, CSC plans to network six lakh villages through the project.

Sundararajan pointed out that the key issues which need to be addressed are sustaining the GDP growth of 10 per cent and making that growth inclusive of the population. "We have had our roadblocks with spectrum allocation," she said, referring to the slow growth of broadband in the country.

Harish Bahl
Also on the panel, Harish Bahl, CEO of the Smile Interactive Technologies Group, brought to light the lack of content to support the infrastructural expansion. "There is a lot of talk happening about rural connectivity, but how many of us are actually building content for them? We need more local language applications."

Sundararajan agreed, adding, "Once you build an access network, there is a thin layer of services available to go with it."

Sivakumar added that utility is important in terms of content. "That's the reason for the growth of mobiles. They give you information which is useful to you."