New Delhi–With increased 4G and 3G penetration, the Internet user base in India is rapidly growing and is expected to double to 600 million users by 2020 from the current 343 million, said a study on Monday.

Going forward, rural adoption of data-enabled devices is expected to increase with the BharatNet initiative under the Digital India drive, according to the study conducted jointly by the Associated Chambers of Commerce (Assocham) and Deloitte.

The joint study said the Internet user base in India has reached over 27 per cent penetration compared to 50.3 per cent in China.

India is the second largest mobile phone market globally, with over 1 billion mobile subscriptions. Of this, smartphone users account for approximately 240 million subscriptions, which is expected to grow to 520 million by 2020, it said.

Spectrum availability in Indian metros is about a 10th of the same in cities in the developed countries. This has put a major roadblock in providing high-speed data services. Public Wi-Fi penetration remains low.

“Globally, there is one Wi-Fi hotspot for every 150 citizens. For India to reach that level of penetration, over 8 million hotspots are required, of which only about 31,000 hotspots are currently available,” the study said.

“Challenges in policy, such as taxation, right of way, restrictive regulations, etc., are major roadblocks in realising the vision of Digital India. Some of the common policy hurdles, including the lack of clarity in FDI policies, for instance, have impacted the growth of e-commerce,” it said.

Effective collaboration with the private sector is critical to the development of the digital infrastructure, and innovative engagement models that ensure commercial viability need to developed jointly through consultation with industry bodies, the study said.

“This will encourage private sector participation. In addition, startups need to be incentivised for the development of the last-mile infrastructure and localised services and applications,” the joint study suggested.

It said despite rising smartphone penetration and internet user base, digital literacy in India has been low.

“To reap the benefits of the Digital India programme, improving digital literacy is imperative. A strong skill base is required to support the initiatives and services that are envisaged under the Digital India umbrella,” the study said.(IANS)