The Internet in India and China

Larry Press, William Foster, Peter Wolcott, William McHenry


With our colleagues in the Mosaic group, we have done several studies of the state of the Internet in India and in China beginning in 1998. These studies were conducted using a six-dimension framework we have developed for characterizing the state of the Internet in a nation. In 1999, we published a comparison of the state of the Internet in China and India. At that time we found that China had a clear lead in each of our six dimensions. This paper updates the comparison. We compare China and India on our six dimensions and find that China continues to have a substantial lead. We also see that India has made significant strides since our 1999 comparison. After examining the six dimensions, we turn to determinants of the values of those dimensions. What has led to China's lead and the progress that both nations have made recently? We conclude that the following factors were important in shaping China's lead over India. (1) Although Indian universities undertook Internet experiments before those of China, China decided to make the Internet a priority and began building it in earnest before India. (2) Chinese economic reforms, which began in the late 1980s, provided both capital for and openness to the Internet. (3) The pre-Internet Chinese decision to invest in telecommunication infrastructure and information technology industries provided complementary infrastructure and human resources for the Internet. (4) The Chinese ability to execute by decree rather than consensus building followed by legislative and regulatory reform accelerated the diffusion of the Internet. (5) The Chinese were able to create competition among government-owned organizations without taking time for legislative change and the raising of private capital. (6) The Chinese were able to establish competitors to the incumbent telephone company relatively rapidly. Although these factors jump-started the Chinese Internet, and will continue to work in its favor, market forces and openness of access and content may serve India well in the long run. Furthermore, there are also great similarities between the two nations, and we hope they will learn from each other and lead other developing nations.


Internet; Inida; China; Information Technology; Infrastructure; Government; Developing Nations

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