Centre for Internet & Society

This is a session proposed for the Internet Researchers' Conference (IRC) 2016 by Deniz Duru Aydin and Amrita Sengupta.



According to International Telecommunication Union (ITU), four billion people from developing countries remain offline, which represents 2/3 of the total population of developing countries. As policymakers around the world are increasingly becoming aware of the impacts of connectivity for socio-economic development, bridging the digital divide and bringing access to the unconnected are seen as one of the most critical policy issues of our time. Most recently, the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set an ambitious goal of "significantly increasing access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020.”

As a country with the third largest Internet user population - despite a low penetration rate of 24% - India has recently put its connectivity agenda to the forefront of national policy making with its Digital India campaign. At the same time, new business models put forward by global tech giants (with the partnership of local telecom providers) are also changing the ICT landscape (Facebook – Free basics, Google – internet Saathi). At the intersection of these two trends lies an increased focus on mobile broadband, which is today the most widely used substitute for computer-based internet access, not only in India but also elsewhere.

In this Workshop Session, we want to critically analyze the objectives of these policy proposals. We suggest the following themes, as starting points for discussion:

  • While mobile phones bridge certain kinds of social divide, it also a perpetrates a second level of digital divide where the user experience through a cheap mobile phone and a limited data package is different and more restricted than a PC / an advanced smart phone / tablet with high speed internet access.
  • The need for an effective database/measurement system which not only tracks the access but also the kind of access provided, its penetration into marginalized backward communities and how it is really impacting development as one sees it.



We will divide the participants into smaller groups and each group will be asked to engage in a series of topics and come back with 3 key recommendations in their proposed topic.

Series of questions / challenges / (subject to review as we work on the workshop materials):

  • How does the current digital India campaign perpetrate divides by not looking into the question of user experience?
  • Is it enough to look at the rural/Urban divide? Is there a need to look specifically at the Government defined backward classes / communities while one speaks of internet connectivity?
  • What is an effective measure of success for these programmes? How can we critically set up measures for this programme such that it looks not only at the user penetration but also look at things like user experience / digital literacy / specific penetration into backward communities, as well as opportunities for self-expression?





The views and opinions expressed on this page are those of their individual authors. Unless the opposite is explicitly stated, or unless the opposite may be reasonably inferred, CIS does not subscribe to these views and opinions which belong to their individual authors. CIS does not accept any responsibility, legal or otherwise, for the views and opinions of these individual authors. For an official statement from CIS on a particular issue, please contact us directly.