The government is planning to connect about 2.5 lakh panchayats across the country with broadband. The government aims to set up the 'broadband highway' in the next three years.
"Prime minister Narendra Modi has set a target of providing broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh local bodies (spread over six lakh villages) across the country over the next three years, with 50,000 this (fiscal) year and one lakh each over the next two years," says union Communications and Information Technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
"The prime minister shared his vision of using ICT (information and communication technology) at a meeting with my ministry recently where presentations were made to him. He wants Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) in cities and towns and broadband connectivity in every school across the country," adds Prasad.
The minister, however, asserted the broadband connectivity in the country was low compared to countries such as Sri Lanka and Malaysia. He appealed to the IT industry to help build India “destination for IT products by developing innovative technologies and products that can be used for e-education, e-healthcare and e-governance.”
The newly elected NDA-led government has been stressing on building highway in the country. During the elections, the BJP extensively used social media and IT to run its campaigns. The new government is expected to have an increased focus on the IT sector.
That said, the government faces a number of challenges such as improving the quality of broadband speeds. Just yesterday, an Akamai report revealed India has the slowest average Internet speeds in the Asia Pacific region. Another research firm eMarketer in its report stated India has had the lowest Internet penetration growth in Asia Pacific (APAC) at 17.4 per cent so far this year.
While the new broadband highway plan is certainly going to push e-governance and help people in the country, it is important that the government focusses on its implementation. The previous government had an ambitious plan of bridging the digital divide with the 'Aakash' tablet, which never saw the light of day.