GS paper 2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
GS paper 3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
Recently, the cabinet has approved the revamped BharatNet (BharatNet 2.0) project, with an additional allocation of more than Rs.19,000 crore.
- Private players will be enrolled through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, and it will be implemented in 16 states.
- It will extend to all inhabited villages, beyond the Gram Panchayats(GPs).
- The responsibility of creation, maintenance, operation, upgradation, and utilisation will rest with the concessionaire, who will be selected through an international bidding process.
What is BharatNet?
- It is a central sector scheme of Ministry of Communication.
- It is implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Limited, a special purpose vehicle.
- It was first launched in 2011 as National Optical Fibre Network, and was renamed as BharatNet in 2015.
- The objectives under this mission were to connect all the 2.50,000 GPs through an optical fibre network and provide 100 Mbps connectivity to all GPs.
- It is funded, entirely, by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), which was launched to improve the telecommunication services in rural areas of the country.
Significance of BharatNet programme
- Digital divide: The programme can reduce the division created by the digital technology in rural and urban areas.
- It has cross sectoral benefits ranging from e-governance, e-farming, e-healthcare, e-education,e-commerce among others.
- It will help integrating the rural areas of the country in achieving the objectives of digital India.
- It will help in expediting government initiatives like Start-up India, Stand-up India, Make-in India.
- The project has a special advantage in the present power line infrastructure like easy maintenance, faster implementation etc.
Reasons for the launch of BharatNet 2.0
- The earlier version was unable to achieve the last mile connectivity.
- Lack of functional Internet connectivity: The report of Digital Empowerment Foundation’s research has found that only 50 of the 269 surveyed GPs had broadband internet connection and only 11% of them had functional internet connection.
- Poor internet speed: The objective of 100 Mbps was not met and the internet speed in GPs, wherever it was available, was very slow.
- Poor Implementation: Most of the delay was due to the absence of any detailed project report.
Steps needed to make BharatNet 2.0 successful
- Establish accountability: This is one of the cardinal steps in making a project successful. Government should fix accountability and put the name in the public forum.
- Use funds properly: The earlier phase of the project faced the dearth of funds. The allocated amount in the successive budget has not been used effectively.
- Digital Literacy: The digital divide could be reduced by increasing the digital literacy in the remote areas.
- Initiatives like PM Grameen Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) can prove to be a game changer in this direction.
- This could also reduce the financial frauds, which are prevalent in rural areas of the country.
- Affordability: The internet should be made affordable to the people. Just making internet accessible to rural areas is only a half-won battle.
- Gender gap: The internet service should be made inclusive by focussing on the socio-economic weaker section of the society including women.
In the era of digital revolution, internet services have become a necessity. The objective of inclusive development needs an equity-based solution, specifically tailored for the socio-economic backward strata of the Indian population. BharatNet has the potential to make our country, truly, Aatmanirbhar!