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  • Dharya Akansha Horo, Shreya Giri and Muskan Agarwal

India's rural digitization is the roadmap to the future

Rural digitization involves the use of advanced digital technologies to strengthen the economic and social fabric of rural populations. It helps them develop a connected living style - a convenient and . With more than 600 million internet users in 2019, India is one of the largest and fastest growing markets for digital consumers. This significant growth in the digital economy has been largely led by consumers in the metro area. However, as governments push for financial inclusion, rural India has also begun to embrace the digital economy.

According to a recent TRAI report, rural internet subscribers accounted for more than 38% of all internet subscribers in the country as of March 2020, up from about 32% in March 2017. It is a well known fact that in rural India, digitization has led to many innovations and technological progress. This will help change people's lives in many ways and will empower society for betterment.

The scenario in the villages

Rural India is an important part of the country's economy, contributing about 46% of national income. It is estimated that around 66% of India's population live in rural areas and despite rapidly increasing urbanization, rural India will continue to account for a significant portion of India's population over the next decade. Things change locally. The rural economy, once predominantly agricultural, is becoming increasingly diversified, with the non-agricultural sector contributing about two-thirds of household income. Additionally, thanks to improved internet access, people in rural India are no longer as isolated from their urban counterparts as they used to be. There is a whole generation of rural Indians who are mobile first and have brought generations of technology to the mobile phone.

The ripple effect of digital boom

Digitization has transformed the country tremendously over time, helping many people to reap the benefits of using technology efficiently. Technology is one of the greatest assets that can benefit people's lives and improve their standard of living. The latest report from the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Nilsen showed rural India had 227 million active internet users as of November 2019, 10% more than the approximately 205 million in urban India. Almost 4.4% of rural households and 23.4% urban Households have a computer.

How many internet users are there in rural India?

The rural internet user base in 2020 was 299 million. The report estimates that India had 622 million active internet users in 2020, when the total population was estimated at 1,433 million individuals. This means that around 43 % of the population is active Internet users. Nine out of ten active users accessed the internet daily. These people also spend an average of about 107 minutes online.

In both rural and urban India, the internet has been most commonly used for entertainment, communication and social media use. Although the rural internet user base will overtake the urban one, internet penetration in rural India is still lower than in urban areas. According to the report, the rural population is 948 million, of which only 299 million (about 32 %) are active Internet users. In comparison, the urban population is 485 million, of which 323 million (about 67%) are active Internet users. In addition, urban areas have double the internet penetration of rural areas. While 94 %of urban internet users access the internet daily, in rural India it is 90%.

Is digitization essential for the villages?

Digitization can facilitate the crucial needs of rural India which includes education, health care services, financial services, e-governance, online shopping, online ticket booking, mobile recharge, paying bills online and most importantly networking.

The “Digital India program” of the government has a strong impact on rural areas. The accessibility and availability of goods and services surged the rate of internet users from 25% in 2016 to 53% in 2018.

The value creation by CSC

The government envisaged to upgrade the rural areas through common service centers run by village level entrepreneurs. These ‘brick and click’ centers provide both government and business services to rural people.

Tapan, a resident of Bhogpur in West Bengal traveled 15kms to visit his nearest bank . Thousands of villagers like him have to suffer because only 38% of the 1,17,200 branches of scheduled commercial banks are working in rural areas. But the opening of Digitalized Common Service has a positive impact in their lives. These digital outlets helped the people by fulfilling their key requirements like online payment booking tickets and connecting with the bank, these further enhanced the digital literacy over years.

Similarly, Advaita Bodhi Foundation has built Jana Pragati Udyog across West Bengal. The idea is not only building a place to get services but also get trained on various digital skills. Beside offering citizen services digitally, these Jana Pragati Udyog help the rural communities learn newer technologies everyday through regular workshops.

Impact on economy

Digitization has the potential to encourage the digital market by increasing productivity, creating new job opportunities and by enhancing the quality of life for the society. With a 10% increase in digitization, the rate of unemployment decreased to 0.84%. It can play a major role in assisting policymakers to enhance economic growth and employment. It provided a 193 billion boost to world economic output and created 6million jobs in 2011. The rate of increasing online transactions proved to be quite beneficial for the people all over India. A total of 7,422 crore digital payment transactions were recorded according to the reports by the Ministry of Electronics.

Business upgrade

Rural people carry on small businesses like poultry farm, retail business, flour mill business, dairy business, fertilizers business and so on. Most of the businesses are agro-based. Initially only 8.8% used computers as a result very less number of people had access to digital storage. But the rapid availability of smartphones in rural areas increased from 36.5% in 2018 to 67.6% in 2021, has created a digital platform for maximum number of people especially businessman. Businessmen are ready to embrace the benefits of digitization.

Along with preventing error and improving growth and continuity, digitization leads to networking which further links the reaches of a particular organization. It also helps in the following way:-

  • Efficiency: Data handling is more efficient and easier when data is available digitally. Data can be stored and formatted whenever it is necessary. Thus, time and labor is saved.

  • Response time: the requirement of the customer can be fulfilled easily and immediately as the data of the customer is available in digital form. Makes Transaction and interaction smoother.

  • Cost reduction: initially printing and storage were difficult with the possibility of damage due to bad weather conditions. Physical labor and transport require space and money but the introduction of digitization made it way easier, as people can carry on their business solely. The operational cost is gradually decreased with less human labor.

Enhancing the scope of business

The last few years witnessed the internet revolution in rural areas. The online consumption increased rapidly which includes 69% music, 49% news and 33% gaming. Social media plays a vital role in both knowledge distribution and entertainment purposes.

Social media platforms opened doors for unique activities :

  • Facebook:. Over 400 million people in India are actively using Facebook.The facebook usage increased from 35% to 85% in the rural areas. The recent involvement of rural women increased to 91%. Not only small businesses but also vlogging is expanding vividly. The day to day lifestyle and food vlogs are getting millions of views. Thus, the digital platform created a new path of generating income.

  • WhatsApp: Over 400 million people in India are actively using WhatsApp. More than 38% of rural India spent one to two hours daily on WhatsApp. From instantaneous messaging service to sharing files and pictures, WhatsApp paved it’s way to built online business platform. This seamless connection of online users of rural regions gave a new hope to small businessmen.

  • YouTube: Over 467 million Indians are using YouTube regularly. Rural people are engaging and developing their skills through this online video making site. Many nongovernmental organizations have joined hands with other NGOs to educate the rural communities through this platform . The lessons include farming, irrigation, health practices and social subjects.

  • E- commerce: By using the aforementioned social media sites to market products in regional languages, the buying-selling process is accelerated. The marketers who includes both rural and urban people, not only create content but also engage with the audience at the same time. The content highlights the features of the particular product. Trell, Meesho, Flipkart, Amazon and other online shopping Apps are creating a bridge between urban and rural market along with profits.

Government’s effort to speed up digitization in villages

PMGDisha is implementing the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, which has a budget of Rs 2,351.38 crore and aims to digitally literate 6 crore rural households by March 2020. PMGDisha is a Digital India project that has been authorized by the Union Cabinet, which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The major goal of the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan is to digitally educate 6 crore people in rural regions across India, reaching about 40% of rural households by covering one person from every eligible home.

The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, took an initiative amidst the pandemic situation. She announced that the government will transfer 10,000 rupees to the bank account of 9.5 lakh students of class 12 studying at government schools. During lockdown, the students had to face problems regarding an online class. This contribution from the government helped nearly 10 lakh students buy mobile phones to continue with online classes. This initiative had rapidly increased digital literacy in the villages of West Bengal.

Several training and youth computer education schemes are carried out by the nation to educate the youth in the digital field. NASSCOM, SWAYAM, “Enhancement in Learning with Improvement In Skills (ELIS)”,iGOT, ICT are free online computer courses provided by the Government of India.

Digital India Campaign

Digital India is a campaign launched by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, on 1st July, 2015. The campaign is an initiative taken by the Government of India (GOI) to ensure that government services are made available to citizens electronically through enhanced online infrastructure and increased Internet connectivity, or by empowering the country digitally in the field of technology and networking.

The motto of the campaign is “Power to empower”. The initiative includes plans to connect rural areas of India within the circumference of high-speed internet networks. A statistics suggests, as of 31 December 2018, India had a population of 130 crore people (1.3 billion), 123 crore (1.23 billion) Aadhaar digital biometric identity cards, 121 crore (1.21 billion) mobile phones, 44.6 crore (446 million) smartphones, 56 crore (560 million) internet users up from 481 million people (35% of the country's total population) in December 2017, and 51 per cent growth in e-commerce.


  • Broadband Highway: The Department of Telecommunication, Government of India aims to 250,000 gram-panchayats under the National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) by December 2016.

  • Universal Access to Mobile Connectivity: As per the data provided by campaign’s official portal, 55,619 villages in the country do not have mobile coverage. Initiative to cover uncovered villages has been initiated back in 2014.

  • Public Internet Access Programme: It is broadly divided into two groups:-

  1. Common Service Centers (CSCs)

  2. Post offices as multi-service centers

  • E-Governance Reforming Government through Technology: The government intends to enhance procedures and service delivery using UIDAI, payment gateways, EDI, and mobile platforms. School certificates and voter identification cards will be available online. This seeks to speed up data analysis.

  • E-Kranti Electronic: The government aims to provide electronic services to beneficiaries who deal with health, education, farming, justice, etc.

  • Electronic Manufacturing: This pillar focuses on promoting electronics produced in the country with the target of zero net imports by 2020.

  • IT for Jobs: This pillar focuses on providing youth with skill-based training so that they may find jobs in different IT/ITES sectors.

  • Information for All: is a website created by the government that facilitates two-way communication between citizen and its government.

  • Early Harvest Programme: The government intends to provide Wi-Fi at all universities around the country. The primary means of contact will be email. The Aadhar Enabled Biometric Attendance System would be implemented in all central government offices, with attendance being recorded online.


E-Sampark Vernacular Email Service: Until now, email addresses could only be generated in English, but statistics shows that just 2% of India's 10% English-speaking population lives in rural areas. To address this issue for the rural people and link them to digital India, the Government of India compelled large business giants such as Gmail, Office, and Rediff to give addresses in regional languages. While, Data Xgen Technologies Pvt Ltd, an Indian firm, has developed the world's first free multilingual email address under the name 'DATAMAIL,' which allows users to create email addresses in eight Indian languages, English, and three foreign languages. The corporate are still working on the process with a positive outlook.


Bharat Broadband Network Limited, or BharatNet, is a government-owned broadband infrastructure provider established by the Department of Telecommunications, ministry of Communication. According to official statistics, the effort seeks to bring a minimum of 100Mbit/s broadband access to all 250,000-gram panchayats in the country, encompassing almost 625,000 villages, by enhancing the intermediate layer of nation-wide broadband internet in India in order to achieve the goal of Digital India. The initiative is divided into two phases out of which one was completed back in December 2017 and the completion of the second phase is due in March 2023.


Digitization leads to digitalization. Recent trends show that the internet used by the rural population is steadily surpassing the urban population. According to 2019 statistics, 45% of users in rural areas are using the internet compared to 28% of urban users.

Unsplash reports; E-commerce is now reaching India's hinterland, thanks to reverse migration, increased internet penetration, digitization, and technological adoption. Thus, rural India is almost ready to compete with modernized technologies if it gets proper guidance and governmental assistance.

1,148 views2 comments


Akhil Srivastava
Akhil Srivastava

Very nice article with lots of real data examples. This is #realIndia and I am so proud of its journey.


Harshadeep Biswas
Harshadeep Biswas

Packed with information! Nicely composed.

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