India has well over one billion telephone connections, but unfortunately, the gap between the urban and rural citizen remains large when it comes to mobile telephony and access to telecom services. A new study by a think tank in Sri Lanka suggests that India still has a long way to go when it comes to getting its rural citizens connected to the internet and telecom network in general.
The study by LIRNEasia concludes that India has a mobile ownership gap of 22 percent, which means that in urban areas, far more people own mobile phones than in rural areas. This suggests one big problem that needs to be addressed for India’s teledensity to improve: rural areas are still not as well served in terms of mobile phone infrastructure, meaning that even if rural users could afford mobile phones, they see no point in owning a device that can barely be used.
What makes this ownership gap even more shocking is that India lags far behind countries that are lower in terms of economic development. The mobile ownership gap in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kenya are significantly lower at 5 percent, 7 percent and 9 percent respectively.
Part of this can be put down to a larger percentage of rural population in these countries, as well as poorer infrastructure and a lack of economic prosperity in cities, but it still highlights that India is not paying enough attention to the development of mobile infrastructure in its rural areas.
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The LIRNEasia study makes more observations about mobile ownership and usage in India, including that a staggering 55 percent of mobile users do not have internet access on their basic mobile phones. Furthermore, 65 percent of Indians between the ages of 15-65 don’t know about the internet, and 81 percent claim to have never used it. While the study likely uses a small sample set and the real numbers may be quite different, it nonetheless suggests that we have a long way to go before we can truly consider ourselves telecom-developed.