Osama Manzar of Digital Empowerment Foundation has written an op ed on BharatNet, still being described by the unfortunate acronym NOFN. We have been writing about it since Sam Pitroda came up with the plan in 2012-13. What is sad is that the story has not changed much since 2013-14, despite governments and ministers changing. In Palla village of Dadri, the village head informed us that NOFN cables had been laid in the area 18 months ago, but there was still no set-up box or Wi-Fi tower. This is alarming because Ballabhgarh and Dadri are within a 50-km radius from Delhi.
The Bangladesh State Minister for ICT is among the many who have expressed their unhappiness about the release of stale data based on a large-sample representative survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, which shows impressive gains in mobile use and less than impressive Internet use. “All these data show that Bangladesh has developed as a country in the ICT and telecommunication sector,” said State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak. He, however, was not satisfied with the findings on internet connections at households. “Our calculation showed that internet penetration is now more than 34 percent, and it will be 100 percent by 2021.” Last year, 44 lakh smartphones were sold, and the number would double this year, he said.
In the design of India’s broadband initiative, it was said that one thing was non-negotiable: the work had to be done by state-owned enterprises. Knowledgeable people advised the government that this would slow down implementation. And so it happened. Now the new Minister is hiring 10 CIOs to push implementation (including much of the eco system), setting realistic time targets and upping the spend from USD 7 billion to USD 17 billion. And taking all the credit, as is customary.