As per a report by World Bank on the South Asian Digital Opportunity, South Asian countries need to focus on cohesive action around regulations and institutions to unlock digital economies. The countries include India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Nepal.

The report also suggests that the governments in the region will benefit from building the necessary legal frameworks that incorporate both enablers and safeguards to promote trust in the digital realm. According to the Digital Entrepreneurship Index, India and Sri Lanka have the most developed digital entrepreneurship ecosystems among the South Asian countries covered by the index. The report highlighted that India’s digital economy is on track to reach a value of $800 billion by 2030.

Further, South Asia’s Digital Opportunity report mentioned some of the key challenges to digitalisation. The report noted that South Asia is characterised by key supply-side constraints in the upstream infrastructure value chain as the landlocked countries still pay exorbitantly high prices for international links with poor resilience.

Meanwhile, despite having the longest network by length, India stands out as having the highest share of population (82.5 per cent) located more than 10 kilometres away from a transmission link. This highlights the need for greater investments in the country’s middle mile.

Another challenge posed on the path to digitalisation is the absence of good infrastructure-sharing practices across South Asian countries. This in turn leads to less frequent and less cost-effective use of existing infrastructure.

Also, in the last mile, the share of fixed broadband subscriptions is particularly low in South Asia. Further, despite progress, an important gender participation gap remains and the number of women entrepreneurs, digital platform sellers, or employees of digital businesses, is still limited.