Internet is a technology. Internet is a media. Internet is a community. Internet is a democracy. Internet is a communication platform. Internet is also an independent economy—the Internet economy.
“The Internet economy conducts business through markets whose infrastructure is based on the Internet and the world wide web. An Internet economy differs from a traditional economy in a number of ways, including: communication, market segmentation, distribution costs and price,” says a definition on Wikipedia.
The Internet’s contribution to India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to be close to $100 billion in 2015, according to a yet-to-be-released study by McKinsey called Impact of Internet on the Indian Economy.
The current contribution of the Internet to India’s GDP is pegged at about $30 billion, with the government’s contribution at just $2 billion.
I have serious questions on how the Internet economy is calculated. The money saved because of the use of the Internet—both as a technology and a medium—should be calculated and counted as contribution to the Internet economy.
For example, all the money saved because of the Bhoomi project being able to provide land records at the click of a button—without corruption and exploitation and available on walking distance of a household—should be calculated as money saved and contributed the Internet economy.
Barefoot College earns a revenue of about a crore of rupees a year from the craft products made by artisans. More than 40% of their revenue comes from email communication and through tilonia.com, where they showcase their products—that’s very much e-commerce.
Some organizations do not want to transact online as they are not sure if people would be comfortable buying their products online. These are mostly organizations that sell products made by villagers, artisans, artists and traditional skilled workers. They mostly use Facebook and other social media to engage Netizens and drive them to interact via the phone for purchases.
You may search Facebook with keywords such as crafts, artisans, handicraft, Indian traditional craft, etc., and you will be surprised to find hundreds of such organizations with amazing products.
I came across a great example from Andhra Pradesh. MeeSeva (at your service) is a government-to-citizen initiative that offers 34 services including issuing digitally signed documents and certificates through a network of 600 kiosks.
On the basis of statistics collected in Andhra Pradesh, approximately 50,000 certificates and documents are issued per day from revenue and registration departments.
If all the departments are included, this figure may rise to 100,000 transactions per day, or 30 million transactions per year.
Assuming a citizen saves Rs.1,000 per transaction, the annual savings of citizens is a whopping Rs.3,000 crore.
That’s MeeSeva’s contribution to the Indian Internet economy.
I suggest that the government create a focus group to plan for connecting and developing a supply chain for the 2,000 handicrafts clusters in India and to provide an Internet-enabled platform to sell made-in-India products for the national and global market.
Osama Manzar is founder-director of Digital Empowerment Foundation. He is chairman of the Manthan Award and a member of a panel on Internet governance at the ministry of communications and information technology. Tweet him @osamamanzar