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Focus: GS-III Science and Technology, Industry and Infrastructure

Introduction to internet in India

  • The internet was first used in India in 1980s, but was available to a limited educational and research community.
  • It was thrown open to public use for the first time on India’s 49th Independence Day in 1995.
  • Internet is now at the core of the communication network – there are more than 700 million internet subscribers in India – but there is still a significant population not connected to the internet.


  • The number of internet users in India has grown significantly in recent years, according to data compiled by the World Bank.
  • It was almost seven years after the internet was first thrown open to the public that more than 1% of India’s population used the internet.
  • But then, in just six years, the share of the population using the internet grew by almost 25 percentage points – to 34% in 2017.

To contrast – Globally, 50% people used the internet in 2017, and the figure is much higher in developed countries – 87%.

Post 2017

  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) shows that the internet has penetrated even deeper into the society after 2017.
  • Internet subscribers per 100 people in India has grown by 20 percentage points in just two years since 2017.

Primary Reason

  • Mobile telecom networks have played an important role in increasing internet access in India.
  • 3G internet service was first launched in 2008 and 4G in 2012, and after this between 2013 and 2019, there was a 68% increase in the number of wireless internet users.

Other side of the coin

  • Even as the number of internet users has been growing rapidly, there is still a large population with no access to the internet – particularly in rural areas, poorer states and in poorer households.
  • The Delhi telecom circle, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab service areas are in the top 3 in terms of the number of internet subscribers per 100 people.
  • There are less than 50 internet subscribers per 100 people in at least six telecom circles – comprising of states such as Jharkhand, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam etc.
  • In urban areas, there are more than 100 internet subscribers per 100 people (as in one person has more than 1 connection, so the number is greater than population) in 12 telecom circles, but in rural areas, this figure is less than 60 in all circles except the rural parts of Delhi.
  • Internet usage also varies significantly with class and gender.
  • National Statistical Office survey on consumption of education services in India shows that nearly 24% households in the country had access to the internet in 2017-18 and this figure increased with increasing monthly per capita expenditure of households.
  • Another survey finding shows that 40% people in the age group of 15 to 29 years were able to use the internet, but this figure was 48% among men and 32% among women, a gap of 16 percentage points.

-Source: Hindustan Times

May 2024