The India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) in partnership with KPMG India released a report that highlights various initiatives taken by the government to encourage and leverage the rising popularity of smartphones for digital governance.
The report titled “Contribution of Smartphones to Digital Governance in India” also talks how availability of affordable smartphones and low data rates coupled with the government’s governance policies has led to a speedy digitisation in the country. One of the key insights of the report is that India is expected to get 829 million smartphone users by 2022.
The report noted that India became the second largest smartphone market by volume in 2017 and recorded a growth rate of 14.5% in 2018 with 142.3 million units shipped. As of now, the country is the fastest growing app market in the world. It is also the top country in terms of app downloads as of 2019.
Several factors have contributed to this growth and digitisation and one of them is the fall in the data prices. The report notes that there has been a 90% fall in data prices in the past couple of years. For reference, data usage has gone from 2.7GB per month in 2016 to roughly 10.4GB per month in 2019. Conversely, prices have reduced from ₹152 per GB in 2016 to ₹10 per GB in 2019.
Another factor that has contributed to this change is the increase in the number of rural users. As per the report, there has been a 33% increase in rural internet users in India. Rural India witnessed a year-on-year growth of 35% in 2018 as opposed to 7% growth in urban India in the same period in terms of internet users. Smartphone penetration in rural India has risen from 9% in 2015 to 25% in 2018,” the report noted.
In addition to these, reduction in smartphone prices, vernacular accessibility and various government initiatives has helped in digitisation in the country. The report notes that the “low literacy rates in rural India posed as a significant deterrent to rural India getting online on an English dominant platform” following which the government mandated vernacular support in 22 official languages. This has not only increased the availability of vernacular apps but also voice based functions. The report says that ‘nine out of ten users will be using vernacular languages to access the internet between 2016 and 2021, reaching double the number of English users by 2021.’
Government’s push for e-governance, and m-governance coupled with initiatives such as Digital India, e-Kranti and PGMDISHA have further enhanced the scope of digitisation and digital inclusion in the country.
“This momentum towards Digital Governance has various benefits such as increase in efficiency, reduction in processing time and most importantly access to citizens. The prevalence of Open OS in smartphones has greatly facilitated the inclusion of vernacular languages and reduced the time taken to build supporting mobile applications. With the goal to digitally equip and connect every citizen in the coming years, India is utilizing smartphones and technologies to stride towards a truly digital nation,” Pankaj Mohindroo, Chairman ICEA said on the occasion.