Growth Dividends of Digital Communication: The Case for India

Since 2009, there has been a massive change in the quality and nature of telecom investments as well as the rate of investment across regions and states. Rudimentary voice systems have given way to innovative data-based applications that drive efficiencies in the economy. Arguably, emerging markets like India stand to gain much more from these innovations because communication technologies add more value in the face of existing constraints. For India, the potential role of new technologies is now an integral part of the country’s development strategy with innovations, both public and private, centred on ICT. In the first phase, this study examined the changing magnitude of the effects of telecommunications infrastructure on aggregate economic output for India, taking advantage of the sub-continental size of the country and considerable state level variation. To carry out the empirical investigation, the study relied on a data set that covered 19 LSAs (licensed service areas) over the period 2000-2017. The empirical framework explicitly accounted for the endogeneity between telecommunication infrastructure and economic output. Besides the quantitative assessment of the effects, the study also examined the manner in which communication technologies have transformed the way individuals, businesses and governments function and interact. These have been illustrated by use cases that range across sectors and complex economic and social problems. The second phase of the study will estimate the effects of digital infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region with special focus on South and East Asia. The study will isolate growth dividends from digital infrastructure within these regions using econometric techniques similar to that in Phase 1. The econometric analysis will be complemented by case studies that will demonstrate the impact of telecom by sectors of economic importance to Asian economies. The case studies will reflect on use cases across countries in South and East Asia including Japan, Taiwan and Korea. The case studies will also examine the possibilities of cross-country co-operation in the development of digital infrastructure.