India’s growing data usage, smartphone adoption to boost Digital India initiatives: Top bureaucrat

India has the highest mobile data consumption rate at 12 Gigabytes or GB per user a month in the world, and the country is adding as much as 25 million new smartphone users every quarter making it a flourishing ground to launch digital initiatives, and materialise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’ ambitious Digital India vision, a top Indian bureaucrat said.

“Today we have 1.18 billion mobile connections, 700 million Internet users, and 600 million smartphones, which are increasing 25 million per quarter. We have a strong connectivity base today,” Ram Sewak Sharma, chief executive of the National Health Authority of India said, adding that India has the highest data consumption which is about 12 GB per person a month.

Sharma was speaking at the ET Global Townhall, organised by the Economic Times.

“Fortunately, in our country, in the last 6-7 years, we have seen immense progress in the connectivity side. Some of the Digital India programmes envisaged by Prime Minister would materalie while many of them such as Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Aadhaar and CoWin have already transformed the lives of people,” the top official said.

Following superannuation, Sharma, a 1978-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Jharkhand cadre, had become the chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in August 2015, and worked closely with the telecom industry and the Department of Telecommunications during his five-year long stint.

Sharma further said that there was a need to make connectitivity more robust by ensuring deployment of fibre-based networks in the country, which he said, would ensure a robust digital infrastructure.

In the absence of pervasive fibre connectivity, Sharma said, the country has sufficient wireless connectivity for launching new digital initiatives since telecom service operators have already moved to fourth-generation or 4G networks with their data-first approach.

“All telcos have moved onto the 4G platform. People are making video calls and watching films since data rates are cheapest in the country,” Sharma added.

Pureplay 4G operator Reliance Jio’s disruptive foray in September 2016 has not only triggered an intense price-war with cost-effective data tariff in the industry but also hastened the incuments migration to next generation technology.

India’s data consumption is expected to be doubled to nearly 25 GB per person a month by 2025, driven by affordable mobile broadband services and changing video viewing habits, a Swedish gear maker Ericsson in its finding said.