dial up

Reality check: India's net usage is growing by measured steps, not large leaps

This is the year India is supposed to overtake the US, and become the world’s second-largest user of the net.

The year 2015 is supposed to be a seminal year for the Internet in India.

This is the year India is supposed to overtake the US ‒ it may already have, but there are no data, only estimates ‒ and become the world’s second-largest user of the net, with active internet users predicted to reach 269 million by June 2015. Claimed users are higher, with a figure of 302 million. (The Chinese rank No 1 in net usage.)

Here’s the rub: No more than 20.08 million actually use 3G, or third-generation mobile services (seven of eight Indian users access the net on mobile phones), essential to viewing and sharing multimedia content.

The average broadband speed in India is 2 Mbps (megabits per second). This puts India at a rank of 115 globally, lowest in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a report by Akamai Technologies, a US technology company.

Source: Akamai

Source: Akamai

With the internet now seen as having a positive effect on education (but a negative impact on morality), in emerging nations, its spread would appear to be particularly important for India, but a new Pew research report also classifies India as having low internet usage.

“The so-called explosive growth of the internet [in India] is a misnomer,” said Osama Manzar, founder-director of the Digital Empowerment Foundation, an advocacy group. “Internet growth in India is still not exponential, it is going up step by step, not multiplying, as is being projected.”

More than 80% of Indian net users are what Manzar called “static users”, or intermittently connected. Only between 2% to 5% of users are regular, which means their daily lives depend on the Net, which they use to contribute to the economy, he said.

“Wired broadband is quite insignificant in India,” said Prasanto Roy, a commentator on information technology. “It has not been an economic success. Of approximately 15 million wired broadband users, about 7 million-8 million are corporates and private-sector organisations.”

An ambitious government project to universalise broadband also struggles with access speeds.

In October 2014, the Centre started the National Optical Fiber Network, to bring broadband to 250,000 gram panchayats. A state-owned company, Bharat Broadband Network Limited, was created to implement the project.

Connectivity is patchy ‒ at best. Only 67% of panchayats, in the pilot phase, were actually connected to the national fibre network (20.5% had no connection at all), but no more than 45.5% of panchayats had access to services, said a December 2014 DEF study.

Rajnish (he uses only one name), a technology entrepreneur, said there were two ways to improve India’s broadband situation: Allow private operators to use the fixed subscriber lines of state-run telecommunications companies MTNL & BSNL to provide internet access; and cut taxes to private service providers.

“But overall, I believe, investing in fixed-line broadband internet doesn’t make sense,” said Rajnish.

India also struggles with broadband on mobile internet services.

With an average speed of 1.7 Mbps, India ranks below Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Singapore. Globally, India ranks better than Brazil but falls behind other major economies.

“About 60 million mobile users are intermittent 2G users, who mainly use Facebook and WhatsApp applications once or twice a day,” said Roy.

Source: Akamai

Source: Akamai

There’s no dearth of demand for broadband. India is the fastest-growing smartphone market in the Asia-Pacific region, with smartphone sales estimated at 53 million in 2014, compared to personal computer sales of 9.6 million.

Speeds may only increase if 4G, or fourth-generation services, become widespread. Reliance Jio is expected to launch its 4G LTE services across 800 cities in May/June 2015. But it had acquired spectrum, or telecommunication airwaves, almost four years ago and was waiting for clarity in telecom policy and better technology.

In response to Reliance Jio, and with a possible objective to gain an early edge, Airtel, which offers some 4G services, has also speeded up up its roll-out plans.

This article was originally published on IndiaSpend.com, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”


“Like what?”


A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”




“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:


This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.