It is a good thing that Digital India builds upon the previous unexecuted plans for taking fiber to rural India. What we said then, and what we say now is that the government must put teeth into the claim that NOFN will be “a national non-discriminatory infrastructure.” Give the private providers certainty by spelling out the terms and conditions of non-discriminatory access to the fiber. Australia made it too complicated, but there are lessons to be learned from that experience.
Digital India weaves together a large number of ideas and thoughts into a single comprehensive vision. This vision is centred on three key areas: creation of digital infrastructure, delivery of governance and services on demand, and digital empowerment of citizens. It includes the ambitious programme National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN), aiming to link India’s 2.5 lakh gram panchayats through over 70,000 km of high speed optic fibre in the next three years – thereby enabling over 600 million Indians to harness the benefits of modern communication. NOFN has to be executed with the active partnership of state governments.
I recently inaugurated our country’s first high speed rural broadband network in Idukki district of Kerala. If 900 million mobile phones and 300 million internet connectivity can spring up in India without active government patronage, imagine what a far reaching impact a government backed programme would have if executed in a mission mode.
A noteworthy feature of Digital India is that it is envisaged as a national non-discriminatory infrastructure available to all categories of service providers for wholesale bandwidth. Telcos, ISPs, virtual network operators and cable TV providers can all plug into this network for offering next generation services to citizens.