Government rolls out 2nd phase of National Optical Fibre Network

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Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Communications & IT and Law & Justice,  stated that the vision of the Government of India is ‘Digital India, Skill India’. This will be achieved with speed and scale by implementing and executing the e-governance strategy.

While addressing ‘i-bharat-2014’ conference organized jointly by FICCI and the Department of Electronics and IT in the Ministry of Communications and IT,Shri Prasad said that India was sitting on cusp of a big IT revolution. The Government plans to achieve broadband digital connectivity across the country and for this it has expedited the process of putting in place the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN). The aim is to connect 50,000 gram panchayats this year, 1 lakh next year and add another 1 lakh panchayats to the network the following year.

Shri Prasad emphasized the need for stakeholders to work with greater synergy and cooperation. The Government is in the process of creating an enabling environment, a non-discriminatory architecture, for public and private sectors.

The project for e-governance at the village level has the potential to transform the delivery of video, data, internet, telephone services in areas such as education, business, entertainment, environment, health households and e-governance services.On the occasion, Shri Prasad released the FICCI-EY report titled, ‘i-City: Enabling Cities for Citizens’.

Addressing the meeting Mr. Rakesh Garg, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, said that the Government is according high priority to digitalizing India to upgrade the skill sets of the work force and capture the ICT potential for higher access and efficiencies across sector.

Mr. Garg underscored the importance of broadband by quoting studies by the World Bank and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which state that a 10 per cent increase in broadband leads to a 1.38 per cent increase in GDP and that the benefits of broadband accrue more to developing countries.NOFN is expected to improve panchayat management, community participation, knowledge dissemination, delivery of citizen services and developmental planning.

Dr. Rajendra Kumar, Joint Secretary (e-Gov), DoE, in his address, stated that in phase-II of the National e-Governance Plan, the portfolio of citizen-centric services would be enhanced and added that there was a need for rapid replication and integration of e-Gov applications as currently there is a lack of integrated services, end to end automation, interoperability among exiting e-Gov applications and replication of successful e-Gov applications across States and UTs.

Dr. Jyotsna Suri, Senior Vice President, FICCI, said that the recently announced Union Budget 2014-15 has put a lot of emphasis on greater use of technology for domestic growth and development of the country. She added that i-Bharat 2014 was an important step towards the same by bringing together all the stakeholders to exchange their views and deliberate upon formulation of a sustainable roadmap for multi-sectorial growth through use of ICT.

Dr. Bibek Debroy, Professor, Centre for Policy Research, pointed out that much of the poverty and deprivation in the country could be linked to asymmetry of information. IT, he said was a wonderful device to bridge the digital divide, while cautioning that nearly 1.25 lakh villages do not have basic infrastructure for which off-grid solution would have to be found. He said the government and the public sector had a bid role in providing the necessary pre-requisites for e-governance and unless that happens, the private sector would fight shy of participation in e-governance projects.

Highlighting the need to increase domestic technology adoption, Ms. Debjani Ghosh, Chairperson, FICCI – IT Committee and Vice President, Sales and Marketing Group, Managing Director, South Asia for Intel, said, “For the last 2 years, the IT committee at FICCI has been working towards creating awareness around the need to build a strong digital infrastructure for India. By bringing back the focus on technology as a key enabler of development in the Union Budget, the new government has set the ball in motion, and it is very heartening to note that a lot of our recommendations were incorporated in it. We believe the steps like building smart cities, a common e-governance platform, digital classrooms, enabling manufacturing of electronic goods, and increasing broadband penetration, will provide the much needed push towards creating a digital India.”

According to the FICCI-EY report the major cost components for 2.5 lakh metered connections for a smart city would be smart grid (INR 260 crore) and smart meters (INR 200 crore). The cost of implementation of these solutions in a city of same capacity would be INR 500 – 550 crore as capital expenditure and around INR 50 crore year on year operational expenditure. Further,  the report states that  setting up of infrastructure of security and & surveillance system an i-city having 100 locations, including intersections and market areas, would cost INR 50 – 70 crore.

Mr. Rahul Rishi, Partner, Government Advisory Services, Ernst & Young, said the need for i-City had arisen because of rising   urban population and depletion of resources. By 2030, 40 per cent of India’s population would be living in urban areas, 70.6 per cent of the population in the urban areas would be covered for water supply for an average of 1-6 hours a day, solid waste generation per capita per day would be 0.6 kg and the average journey speed would slow down to 6-8 km an hour.

Stressing on the need for a greater collaboration between the private sector and the government, Dr. A. Didar Singh, Secretary General of FICCI stated that, “ICT presents solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges in areas like healthcare, education, urban development and management, financial inclusion and disaster management, amongst others. However, to enable the benefits of these developments to reach the masses, public-private cooperation is crucial.”

While speaking at the Plenary Session on ‘Unmet Potential of ICT- From Insights to Action’, Mr. Shankar Aggarwal, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, said that the new government was focused on widening the scope of use and development of ICT. The Union Budget, he said, emphasized on creation, renewal and integration of smart cities and to achieve this ICT will be used extensively.

Addressing the issue of procurement, Mr. Aggarwal said that the government was looking for ways to make the procurement system efficient and quick in order to achieve targets in a time-bound manner. He added that the government realizes the need for expediting the process of decision-making to address the issue of delays in policy execution. Mr. Aggarwal assured industry that the government was working towards creating a mechanism, which allows officials to take decisions in a transparent and effective way.

The other panelists were Mr. Gregory Bryant, Vice President, Sales and Marketing Group & General Manager (Asia-Pacific and Japan), Intel Corporation; Mr. Amar Babu, Managing Director, Lenovo India and President, MAIT; Mr. Avinash Vashistha, Chairman & GU Managing Director, Accenture India and Mr. Som Mittal, former President, NASSCOM.

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