2017 could give the biggest boost to digital India since the arrival of the internet in India, 21 years ago. More so, because in the aftermath of demonetisation, the government is advocating cashless and less-cash as the way to go. Digital is being projected as panacea for many monetary ills. But, how many Indians have access to the internet?
Internet usage in India is rising on the back of the mobile phone revolution. There are 105 crore wireless connections (TRAI; September 30, 2016) for a population of 133 crore (World Bank; October 6, 2016). But, the number of internet subscriptions is only a third of the total number of mobile phone users.
If we put the subscribers figures in conjunction to the projected population of India (World Bank; October 6, 2016), there are approximately 96 crore citizens without access to the internet. The rural picture, where 67% of India lives, is bleaker.
The actual figure may vary because many people have multiple connections (as evident by the fact the number of urban mobile phone subscribers is 37% more than the total urban population) and that many use shared internet connections (wired, WiFi). However, this figure of 96 crore Indians without internet is close to the figure of 95 crore unconnected Indians put forward by a recent Assocham-Deloitte joint study.