Five policy initiatives to strengthen India’s digital infrastructure : Ravi Shankar Prasad

Union Minister for Communication & IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that on the policy front, the government has five key initiatives to make India’s digital infrastructure more strong. These are optical fiber network, virtual mobile network, common service centers, digitally connected postal services and the rural BPO.

Speaking at the launch of LG K-Series smartphones – the first ‘made in India’ phones by the company, Prasad said that when he became Minister of Communication and IT one of the significant areas of his priority was electronic manufacturing which was in a very nascent stage at that time.

He informs that LG is aiming to manufacture one million smartphone from this facility which they have already started and is being formally launched now. “India is home to one billion plus mobile phones, 400 million internet penetration – which is 60 to 65 % mobile based. One billion Indians having a digital identity being kept under the most secure conditions. On just a click of a button one can know the digital identity of Indians with due regard to their privacy. These are being used to promote good governance for the delivery of services.”

“Every government comes with its own programmes but certain programme becomes transformational – Digital India, Make in India, Skill India, Start-up India, Stand-up India, Smart Cities are all transformational programme to make India enlightened, informed and empowered,” he added.

Prasad said that Indians first observe technology and then they adopt it, they then start enjoying it and then become empowered with it. “Today, India is home to 230 million smartphones – with this I hope in the coming 2-3 years this figure is going to become 500 million. From desktop to laptop to smartphone the journey is totally phenomenal.”

He then mentioned about the five policy initiatives to make India’s digital infrastructure more strong. “The first is, we are connecting 250,000 Gram panchayats of India by Optical Fiber Network. When our Government was formed, the total optical fiber laid was 357 km and optical pipe laid was about 2200 km. In less than two years we have laid 135000 km of optical pipe and 115000 km of optical fiber in the entire country. Once we reach the cluster of Gram panchayat, we are going to have optical WiFi facility to take it to all the villages.”

Elaborating on the second one he said, “We have cleared a policy recently of virtual mobile network where you don’t need to have infrastructure of your own, you can purchase bulk talking time, spectrum of others and outsource franchise like services all over the country.”

“Third is, the Common Service Centers where we have got 157,000 CSC in the country, many of these run by cooperative of women. They are giving digital services, insurance, banking, digital literacy, making passport and other important services. When our Government came it was 83,000, we propose to scale it upto 100,000 more,” he asserted.

Giving an insight about the fourth, he said, “We have got 55,000 Post Offices in the country – we are digitizing them at a great speed with core banking solutions. When our government came, only 230 Post Offices were core banking solution- banking from anywhere to anywhere on just a click of the button. Now the total number is nearly 21,000, in less than two years and by April end or May will do all the 25000. We are going to give hand-held devices to about 130,000 rural post offices – solar powered for eEducation for insurance for postal delivery, third party services etc. Very soon by March next year, we are going to start a payment bank of the postal community. The wide platform of the postal department is so huge that about 60 global and Indian consortium have shown willingness to partner with India Post on a third party services. These are global names like World Bank, Deutsche Bank, City Bank, Templeton, Barclays and many others.”

Lastly, the fifth he talked about the BPO call centers in the tier-three and tier-four cities of India that the government is planning to launch very soon. “We will be giving some incentive also and create rural digital employment opportunity because the whole range of digital services is there to be serviced by these call center BPOs.”

The Minister further added, “Now we all need to understand that when all these will start operating in India in a big way how much shall be the demand for smartphones and on digital delivery of services. I see Digital India as a one trillion dollar economy in the coming five to seven years. About 400 billion shall be the smartphone and other electronic manufacturing, about 350 billion shall be the IT and IT enabled services and other 250 billion shall be the communication services. We are promoting innovation in a very big way.”