This project wants to bring broadband – and hope – to rural India

(Charl Folscher: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Mark McCord, Writer, Formative Content


  • India has the second-largest online market in the world, but 50% of people living there have no access to the internet.
  • Indian internet service provider AirJaldi has teamed up with Microsoft to provide affordable online access for rural communities.
  • Reliable broadband connections are vital for the millions of children who are being homeschooled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

India has the world’s second-largest online market, yet half its population – nearly 700 million people – are unconnected.

That may soon change as Indian internet service provider, AirJaldi, is broadening access through an innovative project with global tech giant Microsoft.

An affordable network

Microsoft’s Airband Initiative aims to bring fast and reliable internet connections to some of the world’s most poorly served areas. The partnership with AirJaldi in India will provide access to vital services such as healthcare, as well as banking and economic development.

AirJaldi is developing what it describes as “an affordable network” in rural and semi-urban areas across India, some of which have no access to power or mobile connectivity. It has so far installed 30,000 square kilometres of wireless coverage, reaching 1,500 villages.

Fixing the digital divide could have huge implications for the life chances of India’s poor. Tasks that might ordinarily mean an expensive and time-consuming trip to the city, such as banking, can be done online, argues AirJaldi. Access to education, healthcare and government services also become democratized through digitalization.

“Without connectivity, you cannot talk about improving people’s livelihoods, well-being, or voice,” Michael Ginguld, one of AirJaldi’s co-founders, told Microsoft Stories India.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about ensuring access to the internet for all?

In 2018, internet connectivity finally reached over half the world’s population. Yet some 3.4 billion people – about 50% of the world’s population – are still not online.

Although much progress has been made in closing this digital divide, the challenge remains overwhelming, complex and multidimensional. It requires a collaborative, multistakeholder approach to overcome four key barriers to internet inclusion: infrastructure; affordability; skills, awareness and cultural acceptance; and relevant content.

The World Economic Forum launched Internet for All in 2016 to provide a platform where leaders from government, private-sector, international organizations, non-profit organizations, academia and civil society could come together and develop models of public-private collaboration for internet inclusion globally.Achieving Internet for All

Since its launch, Internet for All has achieved significant on-the-ground results globally – including launching four operational country programmes in Rwanda, South Africa, Argentina and Jordan.

Read more about our results, and ongoing efforts to ensure access to the internet for all in our impact story.

Contact us to partner with the Forum and shape the future of our digital economy.

Closing the digital divide

Internet access is linked to improved economic outcomes and can help bring development, education and jobs to communities, a recent World Economic Forum report concluded.

The importance of a reliable, low-cost internet connection proved particularly vital when the COVID-19 pandemic caused nationwide lockdowns and prevented in-school education for many children. The health crisis exposed a digital divide between well-connected children in cities such as Mumbai and those in rural areas. City children were able to join online classes, while those in remote villages were prevented from doing so by inadequate internet access.

A graph to show the number of internet users in India from 2015 - 2020 with a forecast until 2025
There will be an estimated 975 million internet users in India by 2025, but women, older people and non-city dwellers will miss out unless progress is made. Image: Statista

The need for a solution becomes more acute as India’s digitalization accelerates – in 2019 the country was ranked just behind China in terms of having the world’s largest internet populations. The faster the transformation, the deeper the digital divide becomes for the large swathes of the country that remain offline.

AirJaldi isn’t alone in trying to bridge the chasm. Digital India, launched in 2015 by the government, is an umbrella programme working to improve internet connectivity and is committed to doubling the size of the country’s online economy.

Connecting the world

India is not the only nation to suffer a yawning gap between the digital haves and have-nots – half of the planet’s population currently lacks any form of internet connection. Those without tend to be in already-disadvantaged, isolated rural communities.

Two-thirds of school-age children worldwide cannot access the internet at home, according to UNICEF figures. In light of the pandemic and the United Nation’s sustainable development goals for education, this is a figure which needs to be addressed urgently.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Pro-EU forces won a 70% triumph in the European elections

Greater EU Civil Protection capacity needed in light of lessons from COVID-19

The world’s impact in a small Brazilian town and the increased demand for mental health

What will education look like in 20 years? Here are 4 scenarios

High level political talks didn’t break the stalemate in Ukraine

EU officially launches its first naval mission against migrant smugglers

Half the world’s refugee children not in school, UN agency finds

What does Tsipras have to offer to the rest of Europe? Is it worth an early advance of €10 billion? Berlin sturdily denies it

Spread Her Wings: Let Her Fly

This is the environmental catastrophe you’ve probably never heard of

Protecting farmers and quality products: vote on EU farm policy reform plans

Donors must do more to align development finance with climate goals

Can the Notre-Dame fire freeze the ‘Yellow Vests’ uprising?

What we need is more (and better) multilateralism, not less

ICC Appeals Chamber acquits former Congolese Vice President Bemba from war crimes charges

Venezuelan exodus to Ecuador reaches record levels: UN refugee agency steps up aid

Here’s how innovation could help car companies hit by COVID-19

Adriatic Sea: MEPs adopt multiannual plan for fisheries

GSMA Mobile 360 Series – Latin America, in association with The European Sting

How the Fourth Industrial Revolution can help us beat COVID-19

Dutch voters reject EU-Ukraine partnership and open a new pandora’s box for the EU

How we can embrace the electrical vehicle transition by adopting smart charging

Trade in fake Italian goods costs economy billions of euros

No hard drivers in sight to remodel the stagnating affairs of the EU

Charges against Baha’i in Yemen must be dropped: UN experts urge release of detainees

Conditions deteriorating alarmingly in Yemen, warns senior UN official

Six months after the Beirut port explosion: reflections from a first responder

5 things you need to know about your microbiome

GREXIT final wrap-up: nobody believed Aesop’s boy who cried wolf so many times

EU Parliament raises burning issues over the FTA with the US

UN Security Council hails ‘courage’ of Afghan voters

TTIP is not dead as of yet, the 15th round of negotiations in New York shouts

The Tears of lovely Memories

Parliament elects the von der Leyen Commission

Boosting the EU’s Green Recovery: EU invests over €2 billion in 140 key transport projects to jump-start the economy

The Great Reset needs great leaders to help the most vulnerable

How global tech can drive local healthcare innovation in China

EU elections 2019: Rise of nationalist trends and populism in Europe challenges the EU edifice

MEPs back measures to reconcile career and private life

Fostering global citizenship in medical students through exchanges

Brazilian officer a ‘stellar example’ of why more women are needed in UN peacekeeping

Dreaming of China

Code of Practice on Disinformation one year on: online platforms submit self-assessment reports

South Asia can become an innovation hub. Here’s how

First calls under Horizon Europe to be launched by the European Research Council

European Commission calls on national political parties to join efforts to ensure free and fair elections in Europe

An American duel in Brussels: Salesforce against Microsoft over Linkedin deal

How Mobile Technology is Changing the Healthcare System

SRHR the indispensable ally in ending HIV

Mental health in the pandemic: how to stay emotionally stable?

Suicide Prevention: Using Graduation as a Transformative Tool

As the inventor of copy and paste dies, here are other computing innovations we take for granted

Give a chance to the brothers of Ailan: reception of refugees in Greece

Rare diseases are more common than you might think

Coronavirus: rescEU medical stockpile expands in four Member States

Finland has giant supermarkets that only stock second-hand goods

Working Muslim women are a trillion-dollar market

Why does the whole world want Britain to stay in the EU?

New rules make household appliances more sustainable

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s