India is expected to almost double its internet user base in the next two years with the BharatNet project connecting more homes across rural India, Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on October 27. He said India, not China, is the world's largest connected nation on the internet in the world as China has more intranet connectivity and they have walled off their internet.
"India is going to be one of the largest connected nations in the world. I already think India is the largest connected country in the world because China is not connected because it has an intranet, walled off island that pretends to be the internet. "Even if you believe for a minute that they are on the internet, we are going to be one of the largest nations in the world," Chandrasekhar said at an Assocham conference.
He added that the country has around 800 million people on the internet at present. "As the rural broadband internet connectivity programme of the BharatNet starts kicking in and lighting up homes in the villages, we will have 1.5 billion Indians being connected to the internet over the next two years," Chandrasekhar said.
He said internet connectivity is going to drive the artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem in the country and will get preference globally as it will be developed with ethics under the guidance of data privacy rules. "We may be second comer or silver medallist in the race to AI but our AI will have the qualitative aspect of trust and ethics built into it because we are operating under the guidance of data privacy.
"We will have Data Protection Bill in November-December of this year. There will be a lot more preference for AI technologies that come from India rather than from countries where values of ethics and things like that don't matter," Chandrasekhar said. According to an industry body Nasscom's report of 2020, data and artificial intelligence (AI) can add USD 450-500 billion to India's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025, representing about 10 per cent of the USD 5-trillion economy aspiration of the Indian government.
Nearly 45 per cent of this value is likely to be delivered by three sectors consumer goods and retail (USD 90-95 billion), agriculture (USD 60-65 billion), and banking and insurance (USD 60-65 billion), the report said. Chandrasekhar added that dynamics around the internet economy is an enabler for AI technologies.
"Apart from connectivity, we are becoming leader in leading-edge public services. Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) is keen to accelerate the digitisation of the government and MSME at a faster rate. The demand for digital products like tablets and laptops which has been flat for several years is also going to increase," he said. The minister said India is the largest consumer of data and is among the fastest-growing.
He said the next challenge for India is around how data sets can be used. "There is a concept of trust that global consumers of AI and technology look today at India with today. Of course, we have had some disadvantages vis-a-vis totalitarian countries like China.
"We have got data privacy as a fundamental right. In China, nothing is a fundamental right. So, it obviously helps. Every government-owned company is collecting data and using data for creating AI data sets. We have had that restriction," the minister said. He said AI for India is important as it can be, should be and must be a kinetic enabler of technology space and ecosystem of the country.