Seeing an impending revolution as smartphones connect 600 million people to the Internet, Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, on Thursday suggested that India’s economy would power ahead of China in the long term.
Asked “India or China?” by Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, at Google's “Big Tent” event that debates the social and economic impact of Internet, Schmidt said: “China gets all the attention, (but) math favours India. I am a mathematician.”
According to the search giant’s estimates, around 5 billion people are set to gain access to the Internet worldwide, and “….a majority of this would come from India,” felt Schmidt.
He said many Indians who are hopping on the mobile Internet train would be in it for web-based education, medical and banking services among others.
As Internet activists worried over censorship of social media content, Schmidt batted for Internet freedom and emphasised on greater mobile penetration. He suggested that India could go for fibre optics to dramatically increase the penetration of broadband access.
Of India's 1.2 billion population, only 130 million are connected to the Internet. A mere 20 million have access to high-speed broadband connection.
Schmidt said India was under-penetrated, and its Internet scenario was akin to the United States of 1994, and much needed to be done to improve the situation.
Schmidt further argued that even as the mobile phone revolution led to an explosion in handset ownership, with call rates among the cheapest in the world, high-speed Internet connections that could enable browsing has been slow to grow in India.
He called for an investment in Internet infrastructure, and stressed that without this, India is at risk of missing out despite its reputation for having quality software professionals and IT services companies.