The country can only derive the digital dividend of faster growth, more jobs and better services by expanding affordable Internet access to all/
There is little doubt that China has stolen a march on India when it comes to leveraging the Internet. Of the top 20 Internet companies in the world, 13 are American, five are Chinese, with one each for Japan and the United Kingdom. Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, has a market capitalisation that is 25 times higher than that of Flipkart, the largest e-commerce company in India.
Why did India, which has had the remarkable achievement of being the largest exporter of information technology services and skilled manpower among developing countries, fall behind China in digitally transforming its economy? Is it now making a comeback? The World Bank’s recently released World Development Report (WDR) ‘Digital Dividends’ provides some answers.
The WDR finds that digital technologies have spread rapidly throughout much of the world, but their digital dividends — the broader development benefits from using these technologies — have lagged behind. In many instances digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery. Yet their aggregate impact has fallen short and is unevenly distributed.
The report argues that for digital technologies to confer their full benefit on society, it is vital to close the digital divide, especially in Internet access. But greater digital adoption will not be enough. To get the most out of the digital revolution, countries also need to work on its “analogue complements” — by strengthening regulations that ensure competition among businesses, by adapting workers’ skills to the demands of the new economy, and by ensuring that government institutions and others are accountable.
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