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Is this Index on Internet Readiness Even Accurate?

The research and the politicos are always glowing and positive but there’s something missing (Read: Aadhaar data)

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Something's amiss in Indian Internet readiness reports: the data

Aruna Sundararajan, secretary of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), was at the launch of the report titled, Index of Internet Readiness of Indian States, published by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Nielsen. The research showed that Delhi has emerged as the most Internet ready among all states and union territories (UT) in India followed by Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Speaking about how rapidly India is digitizing the Secretary Sundararajan said that thanks to a very hungry bunch of industry leaders we will see watershed moments in digital India, and they will come faster than expected. Hungry business leaders and their voracious appetites to capture the market may be bad for the businesses, but it is certainly good for the country.

“Take the telecom industry. One new entrant the latest [she means Jio] managed to register 100 million customers in the shortest time ever. Their entrance into the market triggered consolidation and mergers. But for digital India’s transformation it’s a victory,” she said.

Is this report even accurate? It has nothing on Aadhaar

Like all research conducted by humans under imperfect conditions the research findings will not be 100 percent accurate. Same goes for this glossy research chronicling how great Internet readiness of Indian states and UT is.

Director of economic research at Nielsen India, Dripto Mukhopadhyay said that while the research took 3 months for Nielsen to analyse that, “there is paucity of data. Nielsen received these data sets from the government. So all data is considered to be from a secondary source. Nielsen has not conducted research to get the data themselves. In addition, so that all states and UTs were measured on a level basis, where there was data lacking for one state or UT, then that parameter or variable was not considered for any of the other states and UTs.”

It would have obviously impacted the outcome of how ready a state is to reap the benefits of Internet.

For example numbers from Aadhaar (and BHIM app) usage has not been included in this index report and Aadhaar is supposed to have been the single most crucial technology adopted by Indian government and one that was made in India. At least that’s how it seems from MeitY Secretary’s speech at the launch of this report:

“For example, the PM wanted to have 500,000 merchants registered on BHIM in one month. We all thought it was impossible when he told us this. The app registered 721,000 merchants in 13 days starting April 1. The normal paradigm for economic development are not fit for India. It’s much too big. We still have about 3 to 4 crore small to large scale merchants to on board for digital payments.”

So much usage of Aadhaar at least according to the Secretary of IT and none of that information given to Nielsen to analyse for the index compilation.

Aruna Sundararajan continued, “Around 2 crore transactions have been made using Aadhaar. There will be 3 million to 5 million POS (points of sale) by December 2017. It’s 3x growth over one year so digital payment infrastructure will be vastly upgraded across the nation.” However none of that is measured or analysed in the index. It is expected to be reflected in the 2018 report along with some updates on cybersecurity in India such as a state level Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), to monitor and ensure internet security in each state.

By 2018 the mountain of data on Aadhaar would have reached such epic proportions that the analysts will take aeons to make sense of it. And by that time incredible India would have changed manifold that we will once again be looking at a glossy index that belongs in the annals of history.

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MeitY iamai nielsen Aruna Sundararajan

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