A joint study by ASSOCHAM-Deloitte said that India needs over 80 lakhs hotspots to reach the global level of one Wi-Fi hotspot penetration for every 150 people. Currently, there are just about 31,000 hotspots installed in the country.
The study titled ‘Digital India: Unlocking the Trillion Dollar opportunity,’ jointly conducted by ASSOCHAM and research firm Deloitte, said that the biggest challenge faced by the Digital India programme is the slow/delayed infrastructure development.
It added that the digital divide needs to be addressed through last mile connectivity in remote rural areas for Digital India programme to have a large scale impact on citizens across India. Further, contracting challenges such as several projects assigned to PSUs are delayed given challenges related to skills, experience and technical capabilities have also hampered the implementation of the Digital India programme.
The report said that numerous RFPs issued by the government are not picked up by competent private sector organizations since they are not commercially feasible. The study said that around 55,000 villages are deprived of mobile connectivity, which is largely due to the return on investment (RoI) issue. Providing mobile connectivity in such locations is not commercially viable for service providers.
The study also found that spectrum availability in the country’s metro cities is about a tenth of the same in cities in developed countries, which has resulted in a major roadblock in providing high speed data services. It also found that significant efforts are needed to customize apps and services to cater to local needs of every citizen in India. However, finding vendors who can provide such applications has become a challenge.
The reports suggest that, as recently as 2014, nearly 70 percent of Indian consumers indicated that lack of awareness was the main reason for not using internet services. Non-availability of digital services in local languages is also a major concern, noted the study.
With the proliferation of cloud-based services like DigiLocker, data security has emerged as a major challenge. The study said that government infrastructure assets such as post offices, government buildings and CSCs should be further leveraged for provision of digital services. In rural and remote areas, private sector players should be incentivized to provide last mile connectivity.
USOF can be effectively used to incentivize and create a viable business model. The deployment of funds so far has been erratic and not been used to effectively to fund the cost of infrastructure creation in rural areas. The USOF has over Rs. 451 billion in reserves which can be used to finance rural digital infrastructure growth in India through direct investment or subsidies.