Connecting a Billion Online: Learning’s and Opportunities for the World’s Largest Democracy

24 October 2013 - A Open Forum on Regional & National Initiatives in Bali, Indonesia


India, home to 1.2 billion citizens, and nearly18% of the world’s population stands on the crossroads of transitioning into an inclusive digital knowledge society. ICT in general and telecommunications with internet and broadband, have emerged as the key drivers of economic and social development in an increasingly knowledge intensive global world. As one of the world’s largest developing countries, India’s transformation into an inclusive digital knowledge society is critical, to overcome shortcomings in education, health, employment generation, financial inclusion and much else. India is already host to nearly 900 million mobile subscribers (second largest in the world) and according to ITU estimates of 2012, nearly 160 million internet users (third largest internet user base in the world). Nearly half of India’s internet users are also active on social media platforms. India’s policy makers, private sector, civil society, academia and technical communities, face some unique challenges with regards to internet governance. Where access and diversity are concerned the country has significantly addressed, over the last two decades, the issue of digital divide with 75% national teledensity and nearly 40% rural teledensity. By 2017, India expects to reach 70% rural teledensity and 175 million broadband connections. 100% rural connectivity and 600 million broadband connections are expected by 2020. A massive US$ 4 billion National Optic Fiber Network (NOFN) project, primarily funded through the USO Fund, to connect 250,000 village headquarters, is currently underway to further empower and strengthen local self-governance at grassroots, connect the unconnected and deliver a range of e-governance services. Significant strides are being made in this direction since the announcement of the National Telecom Policy 2012 (NTP 2012). How will India achieve its vision of “Broadband on Demand”? Where Multilingualism and e-Literacy are concerned, with 22 official languages, and several hundred individual mother tongues and dialects - multilingual and local content is a major governance issue. More than 90% of the nation is not comfortable with English. Several policy related measures and efforts by government, private sector, technical communities and are underway with pilots already being run by government, some in collaboration with the private sector and civil society. Additionally India envisages that at least one person in each family will be e-literate by 2020. Future Prospects: What is the prognosis in this area? On the issue of Managing Critical Internet Resources, India has laid out a detailed national roadmap for adoption of IPv6 since 2010. Significant initiatives to cover government and private sector through a collaborative effort are underway nationwide. Further the new guidelines issued in March 2013 deals with Emerging Issues by creating an environment which allows widespread adoption of cloud technologies and services as well as M2M (internet of things). Next Steps: Will new technologies and networks pave the way for the next ICT revolution? Networks are being upgraded based on technological advancements, along with appropriate changes in the licensing and regulatory regimes. With the adoption of IPv6; cloud technologies and M2M will become one of the biggest growth opportunities for India’s billion citizens over the next decade. India has initiated dialogue on issues of Cyber Security, through Joint Working Group models which involve Public-Private Partnership. This allows for decision making through a bottom up, consultative process involving the private sector. The Experience so far: What are some of the key outtakes? Multistakeholder Cooperation and consultation, as envisaged in legislation (TRAI Act), national policies (NTP 2012), and executive decision making, is showing positive impact. This in turn is encouraging greater and collaborative participation of multistakeholder representatives in decision making. - How can multistakeholderism be strengthened further? In many ways the speed, effectiveness and process through which India transitions into an inclusive digital knowledge society by aiming to bring its billion citizens into a digitally connected world, could have a defining impact on how the remaining 4 billion citizens of the world connect with the internet. • The Open Forum will discuss- Successes, learning’s, potential opportunities and ensuing challenges for an inclusive, sustainable and equitable Internet. • What has worked and where there is scope for improvement and greater collaboration. • How does the India story impact not just the developing world but a greater vision for a digitally connected world, within the next decade? • What can be learned from the India experience and what are some of the global lessons that India can incorporate? • What are the multi-stakeholders initiatives in India related to internet governance?