Published On: Sun, Jan 25th, 2015

Digital India: Are we there yet?

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What is Digital India?

Digital India is an initiative by the Government of India to integrate the government departments and the people of India and to ensure effective governance. It also aims at ensuring the government services made available to citizens electronically by reducing paperwork. The initiative also includes plan to connect rural areas under high-speed internet networks.
The above project is expected to be complete in around 2019. The Government has ordered Bharat Broad Band Nigam Limited (which provides broadband services to the country) to be the custodian of Digital India Project. BBNL had in turn ordered United Telecoms Ltd to connect 2,00,000 through FTTH based broadband. The value of this order is around Rs 1000 Cr. This will provide the first basic setup to achieve digital India. The project is expected to be completed by 2017 in complete. The ministry release says by March 2016 approximate 50,000 villages will be completed.

But where is the Internet Speed?

top-five-countries-internet-speed

The top five countries according to internet speed. Source: netindex.com

The government has even started providing free Wi-Fi services at many railway stations and in time plans to introduce free Wi-Fi in the cities. All the above data paints a very rosy picture but the ground reality today is much different.
According to data from internetlivestats.com the internet users in India stood at 24,31,98,922 at the end of 2014 which placed the country on the third spot. The important thing to realize is that India registered a 1 year growth of 14% (according to the same stats) which is double that of second placed USA and way ahead of China (4%) which holds the top spot.
According to data (for broadband users) collected on netindex.com Singapore tops the charts with a blazing fast speed of 105.1 Mbps. India with a top downlink speed of 6.4 Mbps sits on the opposite end of the spectrum with a rank of 128. It’s not just the speed but the price to access high speed internet that is a concern in India.
Another report by Akamai, a leading provider of cloud computing services found the average internet speed in India to be around 2 Mbps. Only 1% of internet users in India have access to internet connection over 10 Mbps.

Do we get what we pay for?

Consider these stats in Singapore a user has to pay around $2.56 to access high speed internet. In China (44th on the list of countries with high speed internet) that figure is around $1.72. Good old Uncle Sam (23rd on the list) requires you to pay $3.51 for an internet connection that tops out at 32.3 Mbps. In India you have to pay around $9 a month for broad band services that more often than naught let you down when you need them the most.
So in reality, while our counterparts in the west are merrily enjoying live streaming of a HD movie on Netflix, we Indians have content ourselves with watching a 3 minute HD trailer that buffers in around 7 minutes (on a good day).
Many of us must have asked ourselves at one point or the other do we really get the speeds we pay for? The answer would be a resounding ‘No’. One of the reasons for this is our naivety, when an ISP (internet service provider) tells you “we our offering you 3.1 Mbps or 7.2 Mbps etc speeds” in reality that is the maximum downlink (not to be confused with download) speed that you’re ISP can support in that plan. In reality the users never get close. They might reach 70-80% of the offered speed but that lasts for only a few seconds or a few minutes at max during the night that too if you use it for a single device. Now for the bad news for all the downloading aficionado’s the actual downloading speed is around 1/8th of your downlink speed. So if your ISP tells you they are offering you 3.1 Mbps speed (3G network) in reality you will get around 350-500 kbps of downloading speed during the peak hours. In the night when the load decreases on the ISP your speed may bump upto 1.2-2 Mbps.

The FUP game

Many of the ISP lure you into buying plans that you may later regret. It all revolves around the term “FUP” (Fair/Fixed Usage Policy) which is often marked with an asterisk and written in barely readable font at the bottom of the plan table. Let’s say you ISP provides you with 5GB unlimited data at 3G speeds under FUP policy. It means that once you cross your allotted quota of 5GB you speed will plummet drastically. Yes, you can still access the internet (it’s an unlimited pack after all) but the speed change is not subtle at all. You may be merrily downloading a 5 Mb presentation file for work with an estimated downloading time of around 2 minutes at one moment and once the FUP level is breached that 2 minutes changes to more than 2 hours in the blink of an eye.
India has poor regulations in the field of privacy protection, data protection, cyber law, telegraph, e-governance, e-commerce, etc. Further, many legal experts believe that e-governance and Digital India without cyber security is useless. The cyber security trends in India have exposed the vulnerability of Indian cyberspace. India has poor regulations in the field of privacy protection, data protection, cyber law, e-governance, e-commerce etc.

Whats the point of having a car if you don’t have fuel in it? In the same way the real question we should ask is that what’s the point of having a Wi-Fi router capable of transferring data at high speeds if the incoming connection is unable to compliment it?

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