digital divide, digital marketing, internet

Are we noticing the Digital Divide around us?

There are multiple incidents that let to me writing this post, but want to highlight two of them.

I recently visited Manipur (Imphal) and to my dismay, I was unable to use my data card over there due to lack of connectivity. Another incident happened a few months ago when I was at our company guesthouse in Mumbai. I was trying to get the wi-fi to work on my laptop and since it was giving issues I asked the caretaker, Deepak if the wi-fi was switched on. Deepak, a young and enterprising guy quickly took out his mobile phone and browsed the web to confirm that wi-fi was indeed switched on.

These two incidents point out to the digital divide in this country. While our population is 121 crores as per the 2011 census, most industry estimates put active internet users in 2012 at less than 10-11 crores i.e. around 8.5% of the population. Even global estimates show a penetration of 8.5%. The number of active mobile internet users has touched about 4-4.5 crore users as per the ICube report by IMRB. This is in-spite of the fact that 2011 was a pivotal year for the mobile and internet industry, highlighted by the rise in usage of smart phones and other devices. Moreover, this is in comparison to China was has an estimated 50 crore base of active internet users.

Another interesting point to note is that resumes and matrimonial ads are growing at phenomenal rates. Recently, IAMAI released data which shows that in the month of April 2012 alone 2 million resumes and 2.75 million matrimonial ads were uploaded and 5.56 million e-tickets were issued.

So at one end, where you have usage of internet in smart phones and more meaningful usage, on the other hand the overall penetration is barely 10% of the population so practically 90% of the population does not come in touch with any form of internet. But is giving access the solution?

In its recent article New York Times highlights that with expanded digital access, wasting time is the new divide. Just by increasing access of devices is not going to make life better for everyone. It took researchers a whole decade to figure out the real issue is not so much about access to digital technology but about the benefits derived from access. The benefits could range from education, healthcare, commerce etc. So the question is whether the internet helping farmers sell better to modern retail or is it helping the farmer’s kids play a violent video game?

Some insights can be seen here but what are your thoughts and experiences? Is the situation getting any better?