Budget 2019 India: With its strongbox refilled with efforts to ramp up the Digital India initiative, the government is eyeing the bottom of the pyramid citizens. The smartphone users in India are expected to multiply by 84 per cent to 859 million by 2022, as per a study conducted by PwC and ASSOCHAM. This brings hopes to government’s plans to provide digital services to more individuals, including those residing in rural areas. One of the many schemes responsible for the expansion of Digital India is the BharatNet project.
BharatNet is essentially a government’s project to connect gram panchayats with high-speed broadband optical fibres, which will ensure faster delivery of citizen services. Not only the fixed connections but the government is also mulling leveraging the fibre cables to set up Wi-Fi hotspots in the served areas. With the increasing adoption of smartphones in rural areas, it becomes plausible for the government to cater to a section that wishes to be online but wirelessly.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman laid down the government’s plans of expediting the rollout of optical fibre cables in over 2.5 lakh village blocks. This, the government has proposed, will be possible with a higher inflow of subsidy from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), a body that aids the government and its agencies in mapping technical feasibility across various regions. The BharatNet project will also see a rise in the public-private partnership engagements to reach digitally stunted areas.
“BharatNet is targeting internet connectivity in local bodies in every panchayat in the country. This will be speeded up with the assistance of universal service obligation fund (USOF) under the public-private partnership,” said Finance Minister during her budget speech. She also said that the education sector of India will be digitised to the level where the government’s vision of making India a ‘world-class’ education hub can come true.