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Rural India gets e-commerce & TV ready via optic fibre network

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NEW DELHI: The BharatNet project, which aims to deploy high-speed optical fibre cables across rural areas of the country, has now reached 83,000 gram panchayats, according to Department of Telecommunications Secretary Aruna Sundararajan.

Speaking at ‘i-Bharat 2017’ on the theme ICT Elucidations for Unserved and Unsolved, organised by FICCI in association with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Sundararajan said that by December this year the first phase of BharatNet will be complete. This would provide 100,000 gram panchayats with broadband connectivity by laying underground optic fibre cable lines.

The DoT is aggressively monitoring the prestigious BharatNet initiative that aims to provide Internet connectivity to 2,50,000 gram panchayats or village blocks by March 2019.

The entire project, when complete, is expected to give a fillip to e-commerce services, including e-governance, education and television services to far flung areas of the country.

The DoT Secretary said fibre-isation was a national imperative and the government, industry and chambers of commerce needed to work in coalition to achieve the objective of doubling the telecom footprint in the country by 2020.

Quoting from internet guru Mary Meeker’s 2017 report released in May this year, she said there are over 355 million monthly active internet users in India, while nearly 109 million smartphones were shipped in 2016. Nearly 46 per cent of internet users in India consume content in local languages. In the first quarter of 2017, 27 million smartphones were shipped. Most Indians used the internet on their mobile phones (80 per cent usage was on mobile as compared to the global average of 50 per cent). The most used browser in India was UC Browser, followed by Chrome and Opera. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Shareit, Truecaller and Facebook are the most used apps in India.

She said these figures threw up challenges in the policy domain, particularly in terms of security; data privacy and protection, data regulation and data monetisation.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise MD Som Satsangi said that with the impending large-scale migration of people from the rural areas to the proposed smart cities, the challenge before the industry would be to meet their rising expectations and services on demand. The industry must be ready to provide low-cost, affordable solutions to the aspirational people at the bottom of the pyramid.

Indian Express Group executive director Anant Goenka said India would soon overtake China as the consumer base for telecom and IT and therefore, if the objective was to shape digital India, there was a need to look beyond the current trends. The Aadhaar database must be leveraged while tackling privacy issues.

FICCI ICT & Digital Economy Committee Chairman Virat Bhatia said following the government initiatives, the internet landscape of India is about to experience a tectonic-shift. The next millions of users that will come on the internet by 2020 will utilise ICT as a socio-economic tool of development. To fulfil the dream of ‘New India’, “we all have to work towards good governance and streamlining the marginalised section of the society and transforming India into an empowered and inclusive knowledge-based society,” he said.

FICCI secretary general Sanjaya Baru emphasised the need to have pre-policy consultations between the government and industry rather than resort to post-policy alterations which leads to needless confusion. FICCI, he said, would initiate closed-door consultations for industry so that its representatives can have a free and frank discussion with policy makers in the government.

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