Indian government has endured stormy opposition when Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), its international telecoms arm, was privatized in early 2000. Since then, through merger and acquisition along with new build-outs, the Indian carriers – Tata, Reliance and Bharti – dominate the global connectivity business.
Moreover, each submarine cable linking Asia with the Middle East, Africa and Europe hops in India due to its location. Therefore, like Japan in transpacific and the United Kingdom in transatlantic routes, India could emerge as a formidable transoceanic telecoms connectivity hub in the region.
That has not happened, primarily, due to the Indian carriers’ mindless obsession for dominance. It discourages the foreign carriers from opening respective outlets and transform India as one of the vibrant supermarkets of connectivity. Singapore and Hong Kong have been brilliantly doing that job while Dubai shows up as a new kid on the block. The situation was worsened when India’s draconian customs rules have chased away the submarine cable maintenance fleet to Sri Lanka.
As a result, India has suffered a humiliating decline by four ranks in Asia Pacific Cloud Readiness Index. Its position is equally abysmal in Data Centre Risk Index at global front. Neither sends encouraging message to the proponents of Digital India, which is mostly focused on bolstering the demand side. And, of course, there is no dearth of claiming political credit from the opposition camp.
Unsurprisingly, it is not the legacy carriers but the startups who have decided to salvage India from digital disaster. They will build the first-ever Data Centre Park by 2016 in Indore. Because, out of 20 data centers active in India, only five are for public use. Others are exclusive facilities of different enterprises. An executive of the newcomer has explained to Times of India:
“Unlike other countries, India is not a hub for hosting data centers. We have to store our data in other countries, which makes it all the more costly. All the companies store their critical business information in data centres located outside India. That is because we don’t have an entire data centre infrastructure in the form of data center cluster or park that would support the hosting of several data centers”.
“Most of our data is stored in Singapore, Unites States and many other countries. As the vital data is being stored outside, it may pose data security or data theft threat. To cater internet and download traffic, we would need data centers and cloud storage. This will bring India on the global cloud map.”
And India needs improvement at every front, as outlined in the data center and cloud indexes, to be “on the global cloud map.” Otherwise, Digital India will be just another political rhetoric.