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Prasad: Investments in electronic mfg cross Rs 1.28 lakh crore, 50 crore internet users by end 2016

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New Delhi: The total investments in the electronics manufacturing sector in India has crossed Rs 1.28 lakh crore, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said today.

"When our government came in 2014, the total investment in electronics manufacturing was around Rs 11,700 crore and as of two days ago it is Rs 1,28,000 crore plus," Prasad said.

He said until recently, just a few cities like Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Bangalore or Mumbai were considered the hubs for information technology, but the aim had been to take this to mofussil towns as well and so even smaller towns now had facilities after the launch of the Digital India, Skill India and Make in India programmes.

Addressing the Times Network’s Second Digital India summit, the Minister said these programmes had become transformational as they would set the path for changing the face of the country.

When he became the IT Minister, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given him a small slogan to live up to. “IT (Indian Talent) plus IT (Information Technology) is equal to IT (India Tomorrow).’

Prasad said India is fast adopting technology and the country is likely to have half a billion(50 crore) internet users by the end of this year. "It took two to three years for internet users to go from 200 to 300 million (20 to 30 crore) . It has taken a year to reach 400 million (40 crore) and when Internet service providers said we have reached 400 million, I was really surprised. I think the target of 500 million (50 crore) by 2017... maybe this will come by this year-end," he said.

At the same time, he stressed that the government fully respected freedom of expression and was therefore encouraging the use of Internet. He said the government's aim is to not only create a digitally-enabled society but also a digitally-empowered and enlightened India.

Prasad said: "Today India has a billion-plus (100 crore-plus) mobile phone users, 990 million (99 crore) have Aadhaar card. The government has saved close to Rs 50,000 crore by directly giving subsidy to Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts". The minister said the government is also pushing hard electronic manufacturing in the country and 120 million (12 crore) mobile phones have been manufactured in the last year.

He said that one of his major achievements had been to introduce e-commerce in post offices. In addition, he had introduced core banking services in postal services. From 213 offering banking services when he took over, the number had gone up to 20,494 post offices. Around 850 post offices had ATM services. He claimed that sixty international consortiums were talking to India to collaborate with the postal authorities.

He said the aim of connecting 2.50 lakh gram panchayats through optical fibre network was proceeding fast and from 398 km when he took over, cable had been laid in 10,5000 km. When all gram panchayats are linked through the broadband network, then e-business, e-education, e-health and other projects can be started in villages, he added.

The government's aim was to open BPOs in small towns and 78 companies have shown interest to set up BPO operations at 190 locations across the country for about 1,25,000 seats. There is also a plan to set up BPO centres in small urban centres of India, said the minister.

The minister said creation of MyGov.in had led to greater interaction with the average citizen, voice their concerns and give suggestions for improvement of public policies and development programmes.

The aim was also to build Common Service Centres all over the country offering all kinds of services like e-commerce, internet, BPO and telephony.  This was a major step towards bridging the digital divide.

He said under the Digital India Programme, Indian IT exports had touched the $100 billion  ($10,000 crore) mark last year.

Internet should not be a monopoly of a few and needs to be available on a non-discriminatory manner to ensure open access to the masses. It should be open, plural and inclusive," Prasad said. The minister said internet subscribers are growing at a rapid pace in India at a time when the government is also taking steps to link villages by optical fibre network. However, there is a need to need to ensure that the online set-up is secure.

Earlier welcoming him, Times Now and ET Now President-News and Editor in Chief Arnab Goswami suggested that Skill India and Digital India should be combined into one programme.

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