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India 47th on Facebook's Inclusive Internet Index due to poor availability

Facebook Connectivity in collaboration with network operators, equipment manufacturers and other partners has been at the forefront in building a more ‘connected world’. For the past three years, Facebook has commissioned an Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) to create a comprehensive Inclusive Internet Index (3i) that assesses a country’s Internet access based on four parameters – Availability, Affordability, Relevance and Readiness.

Availability: Quality and breadth of available infrastructure required for access and levels of Internet usage.

Affordability: Cost of access relative to income and the level of competition in the Internet marketplace.

Relevance: Existence and extent of local language content and relevant content.

Readiness: Capacity to access the Internet, including skills, cultural acceptance, and supporting policy.

This year’s study showed that while there was progress being made in improving connectivity, lower income countries have slowed down on their progress increasing the gap between them and other countries. The study revealed that Internet connections in low income countries increased by only 0.8% compared to 65.1% last year.

According to the Index, India stands at 47th place. It is first amongst Asian countries in terms of affordability and stands in 3rd place on readiness. However, India scores poor on availability – poor usage and network quality that factor in mobile speeds and latency and have resulted in a significant drop in rankings.

Other key findings in the Index and survey are as follows:

Steady overall progress but slow growth of connectivity in low-income countries: While the percentage of households connected to the internet globally increased, on average, from 53.1% to 54.8%, the rate of growth in internet connections slowed to 2.9% in 2019 from 7.7% in 2018. The largest year-over-year increases were in Cameroon (106.7%), Kenya (34.3%) and Kuwait (28.3%).

Mobile internet services improved, but many low-income countries are seeing slow progress: In some countries, fixed-line internet access is too expensive or inaccessible — that’s why mobile services are critical. This year’s 3i reveals that, while lower-middle-income countries had a significant 66% improvement in 4G coverage, low-income countries saw a moderate 22% improvement.

Web accessibility standards have improved globally, led by low- and lower-middle-income countries: Accessibility issues prevented many people with disabilities from accessing the internet. However, the accessibility divide, as measured by W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) global standard, has been narrowing. The average web accessibility score improved by 9.7% compared with 2018. In low- and lower-middle-income countries, the score improved by 29.4% and 23.5%, respectively.

Low- and lower-middle-income countries narrowed gender gap: Men are more likely to have internet access than women in 84% of the indexed countries. However, in a positive trend in 2018, low- and lower-middle-income countries drove progress to narrow the gender gap. While there remains much to be done, there are demonstrable benefits from comprehensive female e-inclusion policies, digital skills programs, and targets for women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The UK, Namibia, and Ireland, followed by Austria, Chile, and South Africa, are among the top performers of the year, all with female digital skills training plans.

Despite privacy concerns, the internet is crucial for employment and improving livelihood: Carrying over from last year’s findings, more than half (52.2%) of respondents say they are not confident about their online privacy. Yet the majority of respondents (74.4%) think the internet has been the most effective tool for finding jobs. Additionally, 60.2% of respondents say the online education platforms and digital education technologies have helped them pursue an education and 76.5% have used the internet to improve their skills in changing labor markets. Entrepreneurs, the under-employed and people in low-income countries are limited by the lack of quality connectivity which will further handicap them.

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