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Spreading JAM - Part 3 (The 'M')

In the Economic Survey report released along with the annual budget, the government released data regarding the number of new bank accounts opened (Jan Dhan Yojana), new Aadhaar (identification) cards issued, and Mobile phone penetration. To track the progress of this trifecta of issues, the writers of the report have coined the acronym 'JAM' and improving these metrics is frequently referred to as 'spreading JAM.' At Vartaa, we too thought that the 3 metrics were important to track to get a better idea of overall socio-economic progress in the country. In this 3rd and last of the series we will examine the progress of Mobile Connectivity.

As of early 2016, total number of mobile subscribers in India stands at a staggering 1.05 billion! For a population of almost 1.3 billion this represents an incredible mobile Teledensity of 81%. Teledensity is the number of telephone connections per hundred individuals. Granted several individuals have multiple subscriptions but even the unique subscribers are estimated to be around 0.5 billion according to GSMA, a global group of telecom companies. At an average of 100 million new subscribers added per year for the past 10 years, this is indeed impressive growth which is vital to the country's progress. India still trails China which has a Teledensity of roughly 95% but despite having fifth the GDP per capita of China, India has managed to do well.

Why is mobile connectivity so important? We believe there are 3 broad reasons. First and foremost, communication infrastructure essentially is a basic necessity- it improves health and well-being and spurs economic activity. With wireless technology, India has performed the classic 'technology leapfrogging' act where a developing country bypasses steps on the conventional technology ladder and catches up with the developed world. Secondly, it provides millions of Indians who do not have a broadband connection, a gateway to the internet- another leapfrog act in process. Lastly, mobile technology can be used innovatively to bring essential services such as banking, disbursement of benefits from the government, education, governance, healthcare etc. The possibilities are endless and with a billion subscribers, innovators have a solid foundation to build upon.