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Around 100,000 gram panchayats to be connected through Optic Fibre by March: Sinha

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NEW DELHI: Around 100,000 Gram Panchayats (GPs) will be connected through Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) to set up a network infrastructure to serve the rural masses by March next year, Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said today.

He called for holistic planning rather than piecemeal approach to achieve the vision of Digital India.

Inaugurating a seminar organized by National Institute of Communication Finance on “ICT emerging technologies & USOF for Digital India” here, the Minister said there was need for innovation in this sector as India cannot afford to emulate the Developed economies due to limited resources.

He said if India will lag in catching up with emerging technologies in the coming 15 to 20 years, the very existence of the country will be at stake. He exhorted officials and other stakeholders to “Walk the Talk” for achieving the Prime Minister’s vision of Transforming India through Digital Revolution. He said it is a bounden duty to digitally empower the huge chunk of population particularly in rural areas who are still deprived of the IT revolution and said the Government alone cannot do this.

He said there is need for finding appropriate technologies for the deprived sections of society, whether it is by way network infrastructure or digital highway.

Telecom Secretary J S Deepak said the Finance Ministry is very conservative in allocation of funds under USOF (Universal Service Obligation Fund). He said despite Rs 70,000 crore being available under USOF, allocation of work is less than 40 per cent.

However, he admitted that the execution of digital infrastructure projects particularly in rural areas needs to be speeded up. Deepak also announced that Rs 10,000 Crore will be spent in 2016-17, which is the highest in the history of USOF.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Chairman R S Sharma said Public-Private Partnership is definitely the best mode for transforming India into Digitally Empowered Society and Knowledge Economy.

He said when mobile telephony made its foray into India, there were twenty million fixed telephone lines and the number remains the same even today even though the mobile subscribers have crossed the 1000 million mark.

He cautioned that the era of voice has been replaced by data and if India will lag behind in building the Digital Highway in a time bound manner, there will be problems of traffic Jam.

The two-day long seminar will deliberate on the topics like changing role of USOF, regulatory issues and its future perspective, challenges of consolidation in digital Indian initiatives, Bharat Net and road ahead, broadband proliferation by telecom service providers, unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi etc.

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