India will be one of the “cheapest 5G markets” globally, even as the nation continues to see great digital network and high levels of smartphone usage with very good connectivity, said Bill Gates here on Wednesday.

Gates, who was in New Delhi, was speaking at a session on ‘Building Resilient and Inclusive Economies — the Promise of Digital Public Infrastructure’, held under the G20 Presidency of India. The Microsoft co-founder, while addressing the session, acknowledged India’s competitive private market, reliable and low-cost connectivity.

The push for being among the cheapest 5G network providers would be on the back of a competitive private market. “India has great digital network and very high percentage of people using smartphones,” he noted adding that there is a scope of replicating India’s low cost digital public infrastructure models across some of the developing nations “where the costs of such deliveries continue to be high”.

Digital payments have been driving financial inclusion and also efficiency, the billionaire philanthropist said referring to adoption of such technology in Kenya and also Brazil. Quick payments (using digital methods) have improved efficiency of workers who have been involved in polio eradication programs in some countries, he said.

Gates also spoke on the need to “streamline the justice system” here, as delays could impact investment sentiments. Some of the countries across the world are “doing good work” in faster disposal of cases.

According to Telecom and IT and Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, 2023 is a landmark year, and said the digital technology “has come of age”. Artificial intelligence, 5G and quantum computing have matured to become mainstream technology

“India has created unique framework for digital economy that focuses on making a difference in people’s lives,” the minister said adding that the annualised value of UPI transactions in the country is now worth $1.5 trillion and it takes just about 2 seconds to complete a transaction. Similarly, COWIN is another such success story for India where in “just around 12 months”, the country has been able to administer 1.5 billion Covid doses. Total Covid vax doses in the country now stand at 2.2 billion.

Meeting Health Minister

During his visit to Delhi, Gates also met the Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. In a tweet the Union Health Minister said, discussions centred around India’s G20 health priorities, Jan Ausadhi - the affordable generic medicine scheme – and eSanjeevani (tele health programs). India’s affordable generic medicine scheme is expected to have a turnover of over Rs 1000 crore for FY23, while it is also ramping up tele-health services.

“He (Gates) appreciated India’s Covid-19 management, vaccination drive and digital health initiatives like Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission,” Mandaviya’s tweet said.