Guest Blog: Working Together Towards a Vibrant Digital Future in India
If the recent past is any indication, India’s telecommunications network is key to its digital future. Indeed, India’s dynamic telecommunications sector has rapidly expanded telecommunications and internet services to consumers and businesses throughout the country and has contributed significantly to enhancing the quality of life for India’s citizens and the growth of the economy.
India’s economy has been positively impacted through investment in information and communication technology (ICT) manufacturing, the growth of wireless telephony, the development of e-government services, among a host of other developments. Equally significant are the commercial and economic benefits of India’s robust telecommunications infrastructure – according to the Reserve Bank of India’s 2011-2012 survey of computer software and information technology services exports, total exports during that time frame reached U.S. $51.8 billion with a growth rate of 14.5 percent – providing a substantial contribution to India’s overall economy.
India is also bolstered by the fact that it has the second largest mobile phone subscriber base globally and is home to a number of innovative applications of mobile telephony for businesses small and large. In fact, one conservative estimate of the economic impact over the past 15 years of the mobile phone revolution in India calculated a US$137 billion increase to India’s gross domestic product for 2011.
Equally impressive are the efforts of local, state, and central government to enhance e-government services with the objectives of lowering costs while enhancing services for India’s citizens. The most recent and ambitious example enhanced e-government services and inclusionary policies by the Modi government is the Digital India initiative.
Importantly though, the success of the Digital India initiative and the continued growth of India’s telecommunications network will be incumbent upon access to cutting edge ICT products at the best available prices, including optical fiber, broadband, and wireless equipment. Unfortunately, policies put in place by past administrations as well as newly announced policies threaten this growing digital ecosystem that will raise costs and decrease availability of ICT products that are key to the Digital India initiative.
It is perplexing and somewhat confusing that India, as one of the global leaders in the effective utilization of ICTs for economic growth, has in place policies that raise costs and impede access to cutting edge technologies. For example, India imposes import duties on a broad range of telecommunications equipment and plan to implement burdensome requirements that telecommunications equipment be tested only in India, rather than globally accepted and accredited testing facilities. These policies only serve to decrease access to telecommunications equipment in India.
While the ICT industry is supportive of the Government of India’s goal of building up its ICT manufacturing capacity, the use of protectionist policies will only serve to hinder India’s own telecommunications sector and those businesses that depend on a robust and vibrant telecommunications network to succeed.
Now is the time to rekindle that spirit of commercial partnership between India and the global economy that has served India’s telecommunications sector and overall economy so well over the past few decades. I would add my voice to those that encourage the Modi government to reconsider current and past policies that create barriers to trade in the ICT sector and instead embrace the inherently global nature of the ICT industry for the success of India’s digital future.
Director, International & Government Affairs