Print Friendly, PDF & Email

GS Paper II – Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional.

How many Indians have access to the Internet?

What’s Happening-

  • Go digital or else. Since demonetisation, the government has been sending out this stern message to citizens who are still wedded to cash transactions.
  • But to go digital, a key prerequisite is access to the Internet. How many Indians have it?

Key Points discussed were:

  • Official statistics suggest that the number is as high as 28% of the population.
  • But as with most statistics, digging deeper reveals that this estimate could be wide off the mark.
  • The latest TRAI report tells us that India had 36.74 crore (367.48 million) Internet subscribers in September 2016. Based on a population count of 127.7 crore, this translates to 28.77 Internet subscribers per 100 people.
  • TRAI data captures the number of Internet connections in India and not the number of households with Internet access. What’s the big difference?

Double-counting:

  • Well, if you live in an affluent neighbourhood in a metro, just look around you. If you have a four-member family (especially with teenagers), you are likely to own at least five Internet connections – a broadband linked to your home computer and four 3G plans on your family-owned smartphones. 
  • This simple illustration tells you that 36.7 crore Internet subscriptions don’t equal 36.7 crore Indians connected to the Internet.
  • In fact, after doing away with such duplicate connections, it is almost a certainty that 28% of India’s population isn’t connected to the Internet. 

Census Stats:

  • The previous Census (2011) did this and found that 77 lakh households of the total 2,467 lakh households had it; that’s 3% of households. But then, the Census only asked people about whether they had Internet connections on their computers/laptops.
  • It did not find out how many had Internet connections on their mobile phones, which is likely to be a much bigger number.

Key Points discussed were:

Digital divide:

  • The Internet connections that India does have, are unevenly distributed too.
  • TRAI data recognises that while urban India has 61.9 Internet subscriptions per 100 people, rural India gets by with just 13.7.
  • There’s also a yawning gap in connectivity between States depending on the state of their network infrastructure and relative affluence. While the city of Delhi alone boasts 2.2 crore Internet connections, the entire North East has just 4.3 lakh.

Conclusion:

  • Clearly, for India’s digital divide to be bridged, network infrastructure outside the cities needs to be significantly beefed up.
  • The government is on the job, with the ambitious Bharatnet project to digitally connect 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats.
  • But for India to truly go digital, phone makers and cellular operators will also need to shift focus from their lucrative WIFI, iPhone and 4G customers, to users who can barely afford Rs. 30 a month.

GS Paper II – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Infrastructure clouds connectivity

What’s Happening-
Even as the Ministry of Civil Aviation is very close to awarding regional connectivity routes to air service operators, a study by Crisil Research has found that only about 60 out of the more than 414 identified un-served and underserved regional airports have the necessary infrastructure to support flight operations.

Key Points discussed were:

  • only 14% of the airports and airstrips listed under the scheme are equipped to handle small aircraft, that is up to ATR 42.
  • The study has indicated that a passenger load factor (PLF) of about 50-60% would be required to break-even at the EBITDA level (or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) even though the government has offered subsidies to operate flights on regional connectivity scheme (RCS) routes.

Major challenges to operator participation in the scheme:

  • Though domestic passenger traffic in India has grown 10% a year in the five fiscal years ended 2016, to 85 million annually, it is concentrated in the 6 metro airports, which account for about 65% of the total domestic passenger traffic, leaving the rest to the remaining 73 airports.
  • Under this, airfares for a given distance are locked and are subject to a quarterly revision based on CPI inflation. Since these are not high-passenger traffic routes and require deployment of small aircraft that are costlier to operate, the government has decided to encourage the players by providing several incentives.
  • Selected airlines will receive route exclusivity for 3 years from commencing operations.
  • But going by the findings of the research study, only up to 60 airports / airstrips including 12 underserved ones are infrastructure-ready. They have the required runway length of up to 1,600 metres that can handle an ATR 42 operation and the terminal buildings.
  • “Of these, 25 airports are under the control of Airports Authority of India, 11 under Defence, 11 are private and the rest under the respective state governments,”.

Select 60:
These 55-60 airports could see an investment of Rs. 50-100 crore per airport for expansion and modernisation to facilitate aircraft operations and passengers, depending on the airlines’ interest.
Airport development needs to be pursued with viability considerations.
“The greenfield airport at Durgapur in West Bengal, built with 100% private capital, has struggled to attract commercial airline operators. Reliance’s investment in regional airports in Maharashtra, and IL&FS’s interests in Karnataka have similarly not performed,” CAPA had said.
As of January 2017, 19 states had consented to the implementation of the scheme. Of these 11 — Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Puducherry, Uttarakhand and West Bengal — have signed MOU. “Together, these states have about 8 underserved and 173 unserved airports – but only 23 of these have the requisite infrastructure.

GS Paper II – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Power losses: technology to the rescue

What’s Happening-

  • The high rates of transmission and distribution losses in India, up to 60% in some states, have led to a profusion of technologies emerging to at least address the non-technical losses occurring due to power theft and meter tampering.

Key Points discussed were:

  • Companies such as Omron, Sensus and even phone handset maker Nokia have begun operations in this sector — helping power distribution companies detect and address power theft and meter tampering in real time.
  • Others have begun work to reduce costs by enabling remote reading of meters, doing away with the need for a physical check at each meter location.
  • Omron, for example, has been developing a sensor that can be integrated with meters, allowing the detection of any sort of tampering, be it physical (when the consumer jolts it in the hope that the meter reading will pause) or electromagnetic (where the consumer applies a charge in the vicinity of the meter, which renders it temporarily dysfunctional. Pilot projects are being done in partnership with Tata Power.

Detecting imbalances:

  • 1) A key reason behind the non-technical losses in electricity distribution is due to ‘hooking’ or theft using a hook on the cable and the resulting diversion of electricity. The development of sensors that can be clamped onto low-tension distribution lines and can detect load imbalances.
  • The sensor uses GSM technology to transmit the data to the distribution company’s central server, so that the utilities can gauge that something is wrong.
  • A key problem in bringing this sensor technology to India is the variety of utility service providers and the actual physical locations of the meters themselves.
  • 2) To connect the smart meter and bring the data to the control centre, you need an effective, reliable and secure communications system.
  • 3) Another concern is the slow pace at which India is adopting modern technology that could greatly increase the efficiency of operations in the electricity sector.
  • 4) Smart meters communicate meter readings directly to electricity distributors, eliminating the need for someone to come out and read meters – whether that is required for each bill, to change electricity retailers or to reconnect power when customers move house.
  • Smart meters cannot be bypassed, and can be read with the help of a remote device.
  • 5)Another issue in India behind the poor delivery of electricity to the end consumer is failing infrastructure and, here too, the integration of communications technology could help address the problem.

EXAMPLE:

  • Following a recent deal with Nokia, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TATA Power-DDL) become the first Indian power utility to deploy tele-protection services over its entire network. Using the new upgraded system, Tata Power-DDL will be able to receive almost-instant.