Ambar Singh Roy
Habarana (Sri Lanka), Sept 17
It would be imperative for India to replicate the urban competitive model in its mobile telephony segment in the rural areas with a view to improving the country's ranking in the global digital opportunity index (DOI), according to LIRNEasia, a regional information and communication technology policy and regulation research and capacity-building organisation.
The organisation seeks to improve the lives of the people of Asia by facilitating their use of information and communications technology (ICT) by catalysing reform of laws, policies and regulations to enable those uses and by building Asia-based human capacity through research, training, consulting and advocacy.
Business Lineon the sidelines of a six-nation LIRNEasia workshop being held here, Ms Payal Malik, a New-Delhi based Senior Researcher of LIRNEasia, said that India is currently ranked 119 among 180 countries in the global DOI, behind nations such as Russia, China and Brazil.
The DOI - which was decided upon by stakeholders participating in the 2nd World Summit on Information Society held in Tunisia last year - identified 11 indicators across three broad categories such as opportunity, infrastructure and utilisation as yardsticks for the ranking exercise.
However, based on historical data gathered for 2001-2005, India ranked first in terms of being able to bridge the domestic digital divide.
The driving force behind this is believed to be the performance of the mobile sector, which resulted from proactive Government policies and appropriate regulatory interventions.
Ms Malik said: "Competition drove down tariffs even as the major chunk of the opportunity index is defined by affordability and access to mobile telephony. While India did well on this score, the country performed poorly as the lack of competition in the fixed telephony sector impacted the rollout of basic infrastructure and Internet access."
While India's teledensity went up from two per cent in 1999 to 12.80 per cent earlier this year, it was the mobile sector - mostly in metros and States such as Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka and Punjab - that propelled the growth.
In 2005-06, the mobile sector grew by 72.62 per cent against 8.64 per cent growth registered by the fixed telephony segment.
The success of the Indian telecom sector has been attributed largely to the progressive lowering of tariffs.
According to Mr Divakar Goswami, LIRNEasia's Colombo-based Director in-charge-of Organisational Development & Projects, teledensity was earlier a number that was used to capture information about the number of telecom owners/users in a country. In other words, it was a proxy for a country's telecom infrastructure.
Mr Goswami said: "India has to improve its ICT infrastructure as measured by the DOI indicators. If this is done, India can improve its ranking and move into the top 100 bracket in the global DOI rankings within two years."