A work in progress


The rapid strides in cell phone penetration and digitisation, however, are not enough to transform India into a 'digitally empowered society and knowledge economy', as envisaged by the government's Digital India programme. Entertainment and e-commerce are top preferences for urban as well as rural consumers, with social media, shopping and streaming apps ruling the roost. When it comes to making the most of citizen-centric services, there are several stumbling blocks, be it digital illiteracy, low-speed Internet or erratic functioning of online platforms. The latest round of the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21) has underscored the indispensability of mobile phones in Indian households. More than nine homes out of 10 have this gadget, which takes priority even over basic essentials such as beds, mattresses, chairs and tables. Last year, India had around 50 crore mobile phone users, second only to China (95 crore) in the world. Cheap data and low-cost handsets are driving up phone usage.
According to a study conducted by App Annie, a mobile data and analytics firm, the average time spent on a mobile phone per day by a user in India increased from 3.7 hours in 2019 to about 4.5 hours in 2020 and 4.7 hours in 2021. The surge in digital activity was largely spurred by Covid-induced restrictions, but the trend is here to stay in the post-pandemic era. Even as UPI (Unified Payments Interface) and Internet banking have opened up new vistas for the people to conduct transactions, it's a challenge for the Central and state governments to make e-governance projects reach the last mile. This is doable through reliable services, good connectivity and enhancement of the digital skills of end users. India already has the highest monthly mobile data consumption of around 12 gigabytes (GB) per person in the world. This figure is expected to double by 2025. With its humongous consumer base, the country needs to focus on productive utilisation of mobile data to leverage its digital gains.

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