National Broadband Mission: Universal access to digital communication in India

While science, technology and innovation have occupied a major stance in contributing to the economic growth in developed and developing nations, the idea of advancement in fostering digital communication across the world remains at the heart of the Non-Aligned Movement. With a drastic shift towards forces of globalisation and transformational technological progress, the world is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. It is the concerted efforts of the economies that their success is sky high. Being a setup of 120 nations across the world, NAM has been a key driver for change in development strategies for the economies.

In line with the move towards equipping India with digital communication infrastructure, paving way for advanced and universal access to broadband services across the country, the Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi led government in India, launched the ambitious National Broadband Mission. Unveiled by Union Minister for Communications and Electronics and Information Technology, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the flagship mission aims at fulfilling the aspirations of the citizens of India by enabling them to acquire access to fast track growth of digital communication infrastructure. The aim of the highly ambitious projects does not get restricted to the urban hubs in the country but pertains to the rural and remote areas as a major field of concern. The government remains committed to giving universal and equitable access to broadband services to every citizen, reaching out to the villages by 2022 and improving the quality of services for mobile and internet.

The project involves laying Optical Fibre Cable on route around 30 lakh kilometres, increasing the tower density from 0.42 to 1.0 tower per thousand of population by the year 2024. The project with an estimated outlay of 7 lakh crores, envisages deploying 10 lakh mobile towers from 5.65 lakh sites at present. With a move to further reach out to every sphere, the ambitious project strives for the development of innovative implementation models for Right of Way (RoW) and to enhance strategies to work with States and Union Territories in order to have consistent policies that lead to the expansion of digital infrastructure. The flagship mission envisions levelling up the fiberisation of towers from the existing 30 present to 70 per cent with its innovative ideas and technologies.

The idea behind implementing the National Broadband Mission in India is to bring under an umbrella, people from all walks of life, strengthening technological infrastructure for education, health, entrepreneurship and development by bridging the digital divide while facilitating inclusion and digital empowerment through access to all. The government at the centre has initiated several efforts in the field to empower its rural base with digital connectivity. BharatNet initiative is one such programme that has reached to as many as 142,000 village blocks, which is now to be backed by the National Broadband Mission, enlarging the targets to be achieved. With so much to achieve and making a large population getting engaged in taking a lead with the new technologies and challenges, what is required is collaboration and not the coercion. Thus, it becomes the responsibility of every economy to come forward to work together and engage in effective multilateralism and take a lead in being capable of meeting challenges that come their way. The ideas need to be reformed with the times changing at a fast pace, the best technologies and expertise must be shared to pursue a positive and forward-looking agenda.

With its reaffirmed commitment towards ensuring universal and non-discriminatory access to information technology and knowledge, NAM has initiated a number of steps to help developing nations to encourage digitisation in communication, making them more responsive to their developmental needs.

It is the concerted efforts of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Member States that today the world is well witnessing a revolution in information and communication technologies. While, with the emergence of technology, the world is changing at an unprecedented rate, it becomes the shared responsibility of the public and the government to work closely in each and every domain of the economy to generate awareness regarding the same and make use of the technology that offers innovative solutions to emerging challenges to secure a brightening future for all.

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava, Editor

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