The Union government is hopeful that its flagship Bharatnet programme, under which Internet connectivity has to be provided to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats, will be accomplished by the 2018 deadline. In an exclusive conversation with The Sunday Guardian, Minister of State for Electronics & Information Technology P.P. Chaudhary hailed the Centre’s initiative as a “game changer” and confirmed that one lakh gram panchayats have already been Internet-enabled.
“Connecting the gram panchayats with the high-speed internet connectivity highway will be a game changer,” Chaudhary told this reporter. He said his ministry was proactively taking steps to build robust digital connectivity in the country and has made encouraging headways in the past few months.
“Under Bharatnet the government aims to provide internet connectivity to over 2.5 lakh gram panchayats by utilising Optical Fiber Cable. We are already close to connecting one lakh gram panchayats with Internet and hopefully we will achieve our target by 2018. Our focus is to achieve the objective of Digital India by laying down robust digital network that reaches deep into rural areas and promoting digital empowerment of the people,” the minister said.
Industry experts unanimously agree that digital coverage of over 2 lakh gram panchayats and implementation of Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobile (JAM) will give fillip to economic growth and generate employment opportunities.
“The merits of robust digital connectivity extend from better service delivery to conducive space for small scale businesses. It is encouraging to note that the current government reposes faith on the digital platforms. We expect to see over 20 million SMEs online by 2018,” said Chetan Krishnamurthy, Country Head- Public Policy, Google, India.
Furthermore, senior policy executive at International Chamber of Commerce, Elizabeth Thomas Raynaud told this newspaper that the digital platform has the potential to open doors for various income generation activities for women, which in turn will take care of multiple SDGs specified in the UN’s Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.
The minister in his inaugural address at India Internet Conference (IIC) 2017, organised by FICCI in New Delhi, asserted that Digital India will not only effectuate cashless economy but also ensure the effective reach of social welfare schemes to the end beneficiaries.
“This last mile reach of digital connectivity will not only give required impetus to PM’s vision of cashless economy but also help in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.
Chaudhary’s asertions were seconded by Malcolm Johnson, deputy secretary-general, International Telecommunication Union. “It is encouraging to see that the government has a strong will to boost digital connectivity in the country. Schemes like Aadhar to push digital economy are of global standards and much appreciated,” said Johnson.