Slowly but surely, India is making progress in its quest to become an Internet-enabled country, with both the government and private entities launching various projects to achieve this goal. While the Central government is betting on the 'Digital India' and 'Make in India' campaigns to boost smartphone usage and provide Internet access to more and more Indians, India's newest state Telangana wants to connect all its 23 million residents to the Internet.
According to a report in the WIRED magazine, the idea is the brainchild of Telangana Information Technology Minister K.T. Rama Rao, who proposed a fiber-optics laying project alongside the project to lay down new water pipes, so as to make it widely available throughout Telangana.
The state government wants this huge project to be completed by the end of 2018. But in order to achieve that, it needs to lay 1 lakh kilometre of fibre-optic cable to cover all of Telangana's 22,000 villages.
"Once you have this in place, I believe there will be a paradigm shift in living standards," says Rao. "There will be a paradigm shift in the way you could communicate both on account of health and education because these two are really what burden the rural households."
While Facebook had to abandon its ambitious Free Basics program for India after TRAI refused its approval, WiFi hotspots are the new rage in the attempt to connect larger parts of India to the Internet. Google is partnering with the government to provide free WiFi in railway stations and it has already covered over 100 stations. This month, the Maharashtra government launched a project to provide 510 free hotspots across Mumbai.
Former CEO of Sloka Telecom, Sujai Karampuri is heading the Telangana project in his current capacity as the director of Telangana government's IT department. Karampuri is of the view that free WiFi is a stopgap solution. And even though laying cables is a resource and time intensive exercise, he feels that it will eventually yield better and longer lasting results.
The state government is also working on other projects to increase digital connectivity in the state. It has tied up with Google for a digital literacy program. And, Rao is also pushing government ministries to digitise its records and store it in servers and the so-called digital cloud. The Telangana government has also partnered with a cyber security company to spread security awareness among government officers. The government is also planning to provide routers for digital connections to families in need.