New Delhi: Seamless, frictionless, inexpensive, ubiquitous communications have triggered explosive economic and social growth in countries and civilizations since time immemorial.
Satya Prabhakar, CEO, Sulekha.com
In his remarkable book Non-Zero, author Robert Wright documents the emergence of complexity and economic strengths in countries that developed communication infrastructure, whether physical or virtual.
The more frictionless these networks are, the more people communicate…the more they communicate, the more they find opportunities to transact and engage in zero-sum transactions that power economic growth.
Much of India’s economic growth today can be attributed to dramatic improvements in phone, mobile, aviation, roadways and trains across the country. There was a time when people used to lock their phones for fear they would be used for long-distance calling. Most businesses today don’t think twice before calling even internationally.
The same kind of dramatic growth did not visit the Internet communications growth in India. Compared to 250 million mobile users, active Internet users in India total about 25 million, though Internet-enabled computers are capable of far superior, sophisticated communciations and transactions such as auctions, contract signing, digital signatures, payments with far superior personalization.
Unlike landline and mobile phones, access to Internet opens up a virtual Alexandria of knowledge, information and social networks. Imagine the power of millions of our students having access to Wikipedia with its millions of pages of content. Access to Internet also affords a unique opportunity for the young and old alike to hone their skills of expression and develop powerful networks of like-minded people.
The Indian Government must invest in spurring the growth of Internet infrastructure and Internet usage in India through the following 5-point programme as part of Union Budget 2008:
• Remove sales and service taxes on computers, laptops, Internet connections, online advertising and e-commerce for a period of 10 years
• Qualify Internet companies that derive more than 75% of their revenues from online transactions or delivery of services online as IT/ITeS companies that can enjoy the benefits afforded to these industries such as location within SEZs, leasing for IT Parks etc
• Provide a 10-year tax holiday to Internet companies (as defined above) to spur Internet innovation, investment and growth
• Encourage corporations and municipalities across the country to invest in low-cost Wi-Fi and Wi-Max services to allow for widespread Internet access
• Provide tax relief on services that enable mobile phones from accessing the Internet
— Satya Prabhakar is CEO of Sulekha.com