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Jinoy Jose P | Updated on March 25, 2020

Work from home demands during Covid-19 have exposed chinks in India’s IT infra

The social media is abuzz with discussions on how tiresome it has become for thousands of employees, both in the private and public sectors, to work from home even though governments and businesses have given the nod for these men and women to perform their duties online while maintaining social distancing. Employees complain of experiencing lags while accessing key services, thanks to poor broadband connectivity, especially in small towns. The metros are no exception either. Despite the grand claims around Digital India and Bharat Net, India is ranked at an abysmally low position of 128 for mobile broadband speed. For fixed broadband speeds, the ranking stands at 66 as of January 2020. Estimates suggest that in China, broadband speeds are three times that of India’s; many of our South Asian neighbours, including Pakistan, fare better.

Even during the Covid-19 outbreak, China’s network performance in February reportedly stood at nearly 58 Mbps, against over 68 Mbps the previous month. In India, even fixed lines cannot match these speeds. According to Ookla, which tracks Net speeds across the globe, ACT Fibernet, which is said to be the best in the country in the fixed lines category, offered average speeds of 45.31-47.74 Mbps in January.

Working from home, which usually involves heavy-duty computing and broadband power given that most office works are accessed via virtual private networks, becomes an arduous exercise.

That’s why a recent working paper from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific boldly declares that access to affordable and reliable broadband connectivity must be universal. Yet, plans for enhancing public IT infrastructure are pushed to the back burner (like Bharat Net) or struggle to get deserving allocations. Worse, most such requirements are left to the mercy of the private sector. The corona crisis becomes an ideal time to raise the demand for universal access to broadband connectivity.

Published on March 25, 2020

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