Top 10 priorities for ICT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Synergy between IT & communications ministries, installing 500,000 WiFi hotspots, commissioning 100,000 digital villages, digital delivery of services for gram panchayats, launching National Broadband Mission, trialling 5G network in 100 days, leveraging startups for 5G, revival of BSNL and MTNL, 5G spectrum auction and improving health of Indian operators are the Top 10 priorities for the new government

On Monday, Ravi Shankar Prasad joined Ministry of Communications and Electronics & IT and laid Top 10 priorities for his ministries. The thrust this time is to bring synergy between the two ministries as it will help in real convergence which will benefit Digital India program in a big way. The other priority is to complete BharatNet project by installing 500,000 WiFi hotspots and commissioning 100,000 digital villages. Once it is ready, the platform will be used for providing digital services from different ministries to the rural masses, this will transform rural economy in a big way

1. Synergy between IT & Communications Ministries: First and foremost priority, is to create synergy between Ministry of Electronics & IT and Ministry of Communications so that Digital India is more inclusive in nature and technology/services are available to common men and women residing in villages and remote locations.

2. Installing 500,000 WiFi Hotspots: On a fast track basis, the government plans to deploy 500,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in gram panchayats so that rural population can access broadband and digital services quickly.

3. Commissioning 100,000 Digital Villages: Even as Minister of Electronics & IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad had commissioned Digital Villages but this time, Ravi Shankar Prasad is targeting a sizeable number say 100,000 Digital Villages so that broadband and digital services can b accessed in these villages.

4. Digital Delivery of Services: The cornerstone of Narendra Modi Government in the first term was digital delivery of services be it Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) Scheme, E-hospital, E-scholarship and others. In this term, the focus is on providing digital delivery of services say education, health, governance and agriculture services to 250,000 gram panchayats through BharatNet OFC network. The launch of these services and many more in the pipeline is going to transform the rural sector in a big way.

5. Launch National Broadband Mission: The minister is planning to launch National Broadband Mission and National Fibre Authority for proliferation of broadband across length and breadth of India. Also the focus is on India specific broadband index called as Broadband Readiness Index (BRI) for all states and union territories so that government can compare how different states and UTs are performing on broadband readiness so that corrective measures can be taken accordingly.

6. Trialling 5G Network in 100 Days: The government is planning to start 5G trials in the next 100 days for different use cases both for industrial as well as rural/consumer applications like healthcare, education and agriculture which would be very relevant from India perspective.

7. Leveraging Startups for 5G & new Technologies: India ranks second in the world in terms of number of startups located in the country. The startup eco-system will be leveraged for 5G and new technologies as this will help in creating jobs and also export revenue for the country.

8. Revival of BSNL and MTNL: Revival of PSUs in the telecom sector is also a priority area for the government but they too have to respond by being professional and should have competitive attitude. Focus would be on VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme) and merger of both PSUs for which the government needs to take decision.

9. 5G Spectrum Auction: 5G Spectrum Auction will happen in 2019. Presently, the Standing Committee is examining TRAI recommendations on spectrum auction. Once it is cleared by the Standing Committee, it will go to the Cabinet for approval and then to auctioneer for designing the auction and finally rolling out 5G spectrum auction.  

10. Improving Health of Indian Operators: The ministry will go deeper into this and consult the industry before moving forward with specific recommendations for improving health of Indian operators.

All the priorities are important for the government but they should include one more priority by focusing on improving the network quality of present voice and data network so that consumers can make calls with ease. If all the above points are implemented in a time bound manner, it will be of great help to all stakeholders of Digital India.



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