Internet connectivity is rising at a fast pace in India. The Internet users in the country are expected to reach 500 million by June this year, according to Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Kantar IMRB.
The figure of 500 million might sound large, but it is far from covering the entire country, which has 1.3 billion population.
In a report ‘Inclusive Internet Index’ published by Facebook and Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), India ranked 47th out of 86 countries when it comes to inclusive Internet and connectivity for all. In Asia, the country 12th out of 23 countries in terms of connectivity.
“India places at or near the top of the lower-middle-income bracket on most indicators, except for availability, where it is 13th out of 23, compromised by low usage and poor quality despite relatively strong infrastructure,” the report said.
The EIU is a British business within the Economist Group, providing forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis.
In its survey, the social networking giant covered 91 per cent of the world’s population from 86 countries. In its study, it also found around 3.8 billion people are still without Internet access.
An effort to connect the world
“At Facebook, we’re working to change that,” added Robert Pepper, Head of Global Connectivity Policy at Facebook, in a blog post.
He added that global connectivity has increased 8.3 per cent and more people are connected than ever before. “While this progress is encouraging, we are still far from achieving full Internet inclusivity.”
Facebook has been taking various initiatives to get everyone on Earth connected to the internet.
In 2013, in an effort to reach this lofty goal, the Facebook CEO announced the establishment of Internet.org, a consortium that allied his company with handset makers (Nokia, Samsung, Ericcson), a browser company (Opera), and network infrastructure manufacturers (Qualcomm, MediaTek).
In 2016, it signed up almost half the countries in Africa – a combined population of 635 million – to its free internet service or Free Basics. The service is currently available in 63 countries of the world and a large number of such countries belong to the African continent.
A controversial move
However, the move by Facebook has also faced criticisms as the networking site is accused of violating net neutrality by handpicking internet services that are included, for discriminating against companies, not in the list, including Facebook’s rivals.
The critics said that the move could end up undermining, rather than enhancing, mass efforts to get millions of more people connected. By giving a only part access to the Internet, Free Basics will monopolize the Internet world.
In February 2016, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) banned the Free Basics service in the country based on “Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations.
Interestingly, according to 2016 survey by the Alliance for Affordable Internet, only 12 percent of Free Basics users had never used the internet before obtaining the app. Thirty-five percent of people who used the app also had another way of connecting to the internet as well, either through data or Wi-Fi.