Rising prices of data and devices are a concern for the rapid spread of digitization, Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on Wednesday.
The comments come against the backdrop of a recent increase of about 57 percent in the minimum monthly recharge plan by the country’s second largest telco, Bharti Airtel.
“The rise in the cost of data or the cost of devices is a concern as they are a barrier to rapid digitization. We aim to bring 120 crore Indians online by 2025. We have 83 crore Indians online today. We definitely see problems in rising cost of data usage or rising cost of devices,” Chandrasekhar said on the sidelines of the India Stack Developer Conference.
The minister said he has not studied Airtel’s recent rate hike in mobile service charges and will wait for telecoms regulator Trai to investigate.
“We’re definitely going to talk to Trai, that’s it? Is it a short term because of the Russia-Ukraine Global issue? Is it a long term issue? Is it a trend or more of an incidental issue? These are the questions we’re going to ask, Chandrasekhar said.
He also said that there has been an impact on prices around the world due to the war between Russia and Ukraine and that the impact of data prices should be explored.
The minister said that the cost of data and devices is an obstacle to digitization.
“If an operator is going to accept it, that’s a problem Meity will definitely ask, why are they taking it up? What are the reasons behind it? Is it because of a supply chain problem? But it’s our mission in Meity to make sure that data remains affordable in India because that is the secret sauce of digitization,” he noted. Bharti Airtel has increased the price of the minimum top-up for the 28-day mobile phone plan by about 57 percent to Rs 155 in eight districts including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh West.
The company has discontinued its minimum charging plan of Rs 99, offering 200 megabytes of data and calls at a rate of Rs 2.5 paise per second. In Haryana and Odisha, Airtel has now started offering the Rs 155 plan with unlimited calls, 1 GB data and 300 SMS.
Electronics Ministry and IT Secretary Alkesh Kumar Sharma said people should have access to digital inclusion, talk about digital empowerment and make sure there is no digital divide.
“We need to provide digital connectivity to every part of the country. We need to keep the cost of data within an affordable range and create a manufacturing ecosystem to bridge digital by lowering the cost of devices,” he said.
Speaking at the conference, the minister said that five to seven countries are expected to sign up by March to adopt Indian-developed technology platforms such as UPI and Aadhaar to accelerate digitization. world to sign up (for adopting platforms),” said Chandrasekhar. He said countries from Asia, Africa, Europe and South America are expected to sign up.
The government is planning to contact various countries to offer them a technology stack (Aadhaar, UPI, Digi Locker, Co-Win, GeM, GSTN etc.) as part of its responsibility as a G20 presidency and expects Indian startups and system integrators will benefit from the exercise.
The minister said the Indian tech stack is being offered to countries that don’t want to spend billions of dollars on digitization.
He said that both Indian and foreign companies can participate in the development of the ecosystem.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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