30th year of the internet could dampen the progress of Digital India.
Subho Roy, the President of IAMAI said, “I suspect new internet user growth will decelerate even further and will reach a plateau in the next four to five years.” The proportion of internet users engaging in digital service has also not been growing in recent years.
The growth of e-commerce users in India has also stalled. According to a Google-AT Kearney report, by 2020 only 175 million Indian customers are expected to engage in online shopping. The number of active online shoppers is just around 50 million.
There has been a tremendous growth in the number of new smartphone users over the last few years. The cheaper data plans introduced by telecom operators has played a big role in accelerating the adoption of smartphones in the country.
The adoption of internet was at its peak between 2017-18. The 4G internet plans introduced by Jio pushed other telecom operators to cut down their prices.
One segment that has not been connected to the internet is rural consumers. The feature phone to smartphone conversation is significantly low in these segments. For many, going online is still an expensive proposition. Another major roadblock is the language barrier. Most new smartphone users are proficient in vernacular languages. For them, English dominated internet is both complex and irrelevant.
A Google spokesperson said, “Every new user coming online is an Indian language user and has very limited understanding of what internet can do for them…we also need products that serve the needs of these users.”