(The best part of Emergic is that it focusses solely on the emerging technical issues which are relevant for this nation. Hence I find it useful to link over here. Further, it saves me much of the hassle to hunt for information online. Head over to Emergic for any more posts you wish to read on the same issue.)
So much for the platitudes. Here’s a low down at what Anand has to say:
Take all numbers with bags of salt (including the ones I quote!). Rather than get into estimates, let me say that we need to apply a quality-filter (e.g. not just talk about internet subs, but address hours used, frequency, non-email usage, quality of connection etc). I didn’t see any estimates for subscribers for whom Internet is a habit, with reasonable usage beyond email. I put this at 5 mn, give or take. (For a nation of a billion and counting, this a drop in the ocean. Forget about millions of so called broadband subscribers as TRAI and BSNL were happily gloating about.) Online travel leads the way, especially Railways & Air Deccan. While all transactions use the internet, most of them are intermediated (travel agent, Webworld, call centre, booking office). They didn’t disclose share of direct internet bookings. Cyber café’s are the primary mode of access. 60-70% of internet users access the net at cyber cafés. Disagreement on definition of broadband. I was disheartened to see India’s internet pioneers say ’56 kbps is good enough for Indian customers’. Seemed kinda regressive to me! I know services need to be priced low in India to reach scale, but that doesn’t mean customers will put up with crappy service. My medium-term target would be 30 million households having high quality (over 256 kbps), affordable ( under Rs. 500/month for PC-EMI + net access without download limitations) Currently cable-operators and PSU telcos dominate the last mile. Frankly, both of these suck big-time! The former are controlled by political parties and local goons. The latter’s crappy service is a turn-off.
The rest of the post is devoted to increasing the PC penetration in the country. PC’s aren’t equated with anything worthwhile and there is a BIG unmet need to have Linux as the de facto desktop. With a huge number of replacement PC’s up for grabs, the second hand market can be rejuvenated by Linux on desktops without incremental need for hardware input cost. In schools and colleges, the thin client server models with broadband enabled access for a reasonable fees. Municipalities can pick up the tabs. I shall look in the same issue in a later post.