Indian urban-rural divide debate enveloped in fog

Posted on May 4, 2009  /  0 Comments

The demand-side data generated by the Teleuse @ BOP 3 study clearly shows the urban-rural gap among teleusing households (those who own some kind of mobile phone or have a fixed phone in the house) significantly narrowing. But respected colleagues are citing supply-side data to assert not only that the gap is not narrowing, but that it is significantly widening. This is contradictory not only with our demand-side results, but also with the claims made by the Indian Minister. We hope they will engage with us on clearing this fog.

More perilous, however, is the inequality between rural and urban India. Despite several policy initiatives to promote rural penetration, growth in teledensity continues to be skewed in favour of urban India. In fact, the rural population is much worse off than it was a few years ago compared to its urban counterpart.

In March 1998, the difference between urban and rural teledensity was 5.4. In September 2008, the corresponding number had grown to 56.6, which means the divide has worsened almost 12 times in the last 10 years. Since number of fixed phones is declining, the entire change can be attributed to mobile telephony.

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