Internet penetration in India has increased in the past few months, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdown has also accelerated internet push in rural areas. According to data from CSC e-Governance Services, data consumption in BharatNet fibre backbone connected panchayats spiked to 150 Terabytes (TB) in May from just 55 TB in January.
Moreover, over 300K subscribers registered for a fibre-to-home connection under the BharatNet programme in March only. So far, 1.2 Mn users have subscribed to this WiFi facility offered by the government.
CEO of CSC e-Governance Services Dinesh Tyagi told Economic Times that with BharatNet being accessed by citizens through the common service centres, internet consumption in rural areas has increased significantly.
Tyagi credits the Covid-19 lockdown for this surge. He said, “The limitation imposed due to the Covid-19 lockdown has also led to the surge, this shows that there was significant pent up demand in rural areas which was unserved earlier.”
CSC e-Governance Services provides last-mile internet connectivity to rural India through the BharatNet network. It is connecting panchayats through the digital fibre network. “Since CSC has been made the custodian of last-mile operational issues, it has helped in the speedy roll-out and maintenance of the services,” Tyagi added.
CSC e-Governance Services had taken over this responsibility in July 2019 when only 22K gram panchayats were internet-enabled. “With close to 100,000 functional panchayats now, the last mile internet connectivity drive in rural areas have been accelerated through its Wi-Fi Choupal programme,” Tyagi said.
Rural India Chills On Netflix
Netflix is gaining more popularity in rural India as the country lives under lockdown. According to CSC data, YouTube was consumed the most by rural India, followed by Facebook and Netflix in March.
Interestingly, the growth of Netflix during this period stood at 422% as compared to January. The growth numbers for YouTube and Facebook stood at 219% and 374%, respectively. Besides these three, Amazon Prime, Instagram, Zoom, Webex and Twitter were among the top 10 popular applications in rural India during this period.
Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the eve of his government completing the first year of its second term, noted that the number of internet users in the country is more in rural areas than in cities. In an open letter, Modi said, “The government policies have led to bridging the gulf between urban and rural lives. For the first time, internet users in rural areas have outnumbered urban counterparts by 10%.”