India to connect 2.5 lakh panchayats through broadband

Bangalore : India will build a broadband highway connecting 2.5 lakh panchayats across the country in the next three years to provide a host of public services, union Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Tuesday.

“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,” Prasad said at a meeting here with IT industry honchos.

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Asserting that the Modi government would be known for building a broadband highway much as the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was known for building highways connecting metros and cities across India, Prasad said the prime minister wanted to change India through the instrument of information technology.

“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 WiFi (wireless fidelity) in cities and towns and broadband connectivity in every school across the country,” Prasad said.

Lamenting that broadband connectivity in India was less than even in Sri Lanka and Malaysia, Prasad appealed to the IT industry to help the government in achieving the target of providing broadband connectivity to the local bodies.

“You got a good name in the global IT industry with your software and services. You should now make India a proud destination for IT products by developing innovative technologies and products that can be used for e-education, e-healthcare and e-governance,” Prasad told executive council members of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom).

Terming his first interaction with the IT honchos, including Wipro chairman Azim H. Premji as an “IT panchayat”, Prasad advised them to develop products that can use broadband to provide education and health care on a fast track.

“You should create a dedicated portal for lost and found children that can be used nationwide by the agencies to trace them when their details are uploaded as hundreds of them (children) go missing, are kidnapped or separated from their families,” he told the council members.

Admitting that there was scope for improvement in e-governance, the minister said he had written to the Law Commission to shorten electronic forms for approvals/clearances.

“I have also written to various chambers of commerce and industry and concerned agencies for suggestions to ease doing business in the country by simplifying the procedures and reducing the number of clearances for quick decision-making,” he added.

Nasscom president R. Chandrashekhar said the cost of providing broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh local bodies was estimated to be a whopping Rs.20,000 crore and the potential for business by using the facility would be two-fold, with a multiplier effect on the economy at large.