Net use & abuse


We are more connected now than ever and our position in the wired world is third after China and the US, according to the latest report by global...

We are more connected now than ever and our position in the wired world is third after China and the US, according to the latest report by global digital measurement and analytics firm comScore which says that India has about 74 million Internet users, a 31 per cent increase over March 2012. The substantial rise in the Net use in one year has edged Japan out of its third position and in the coming years India is slated to displace the US from its second rank as the penetration will be more, particularly in rural areas.

However, the comScore estimates look conservative when compared with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)’s number that puts the Indian Internet subscriber base at 164.81 million as of March 31, 2013, with seven out of eight accessing the Net from their mobile phones. But comScore pegs the mobile and tablet-based Net traffic at just 14 per cent of the total. Apparently, the analytics firm has used a different methodology based on the use of PCs and laptops to draw its conclusions. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Internet use has been increasing which is a great leap forward in our communications technology. What is aiding this silent digital revolution is affordable tariffs and satellite technology that has catapulted the country from the age of bullock carts to cyber era.

What has hastened the process is smart mobile phones that obviate the need for other bulky devices such as PCs and laptops to access the Net. The cell phone has made it so easy that it has virtually put the whole world in the pocket. With mobile phone prices coming down by the day, the Net access too has increased and it is one of the most significant factors to contribute to the widespread use of Internet in the country. In other words, the mobile Net usage is the driving force behind the achievement which, incidentally, is seen as the future in a country that is rapidly becoming digital-savvy. The comScore report has also given the current trends that point to the age groups – predominantly young and middle aged – and optimum users – more males than females who constitute about 40 per cent of the total number – and the growing literacy that can be directly linked to Net use.

While this is all laudable and shows how flat the world has become at the level of common people, some of its negative effects on society and its abuse and misuse, particularly by the youth, can’t be glossed over. In recent months, smart phones have become handy tools for uncouth people to exploit and harass girls/women by taking their pictures or video-graphing them in indecent ways and circulating them on the Net. Similarly, mobile Net porn is also rampant and it is thriving in the absence of adequate cyber laws.
One can dismiss the abuse of Internet by some mobile phone users as the dark side of communication technology and stringent laws should tackle the menace. But, in India’s case, it has become a big challenge for the law-enforcing authorities as the mobile phone has been turned into an instrument of blackmail and the Internet to sow seeds of discord and hatred among communities by some anti-social elements prompting the government to mull ways to curb such activities and inviting the wrath of freedom of expression protagonists. Since the Internet is a double-edged sword, caution is the watchword for users.
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