Internet Connectivity Current Affairs - 2019

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All panchayats to have Broadband Connectivity by March 2020: Govt

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister Electronics and Information Technology in a written reply in Lok Sabha informed Parliament that all gram panchayats will be provided high speed broadband connections under BharatNet project by March 2020.

Key Highlights

As per the government, as of today 128870 gram panchayats have been connected with optical fibre under BharatNet Project.

In Phase I of BharaNet project government connected 1 lakh gram panchayats and the Phase II of project is under implementation, and a total of 2 lakh GPs (gram panchayats) are targeted to be completed by March 2020.

Background: On 19 July 2017 Union Cabinet approved a modified strategy for implementing BharatNet under which, remaining 1,50,000 (approx.) Gram Panchayats in India are to be provided broadband connectivity in Phase-II of the project. The government has set target date to complete roll out of optical based high speed broadband network across all panchayats as March 2019 which was later modified to 2020 following the delay.

Delay: in initial implementation of project was on account of delay in initial commencement of project as the work on BharatNet project began in 2nd half of 2014 due to field survey of GPs and pilot testing of technology model.

In NER (north east region), gram panchayats are located in widely expansive hilly and remote areas and the monsoon season is also very long which creates a problem too. Also only underground optical fibre cable have been used to cover all panchyats.

Empowered Committee: This issue of delay has been resolved since May 2016 with constitution of empowered committee under Telecom Secretary, Steering Committee under USOF (Universal Service Obligation Fund) administrator and state committee under Chief General Manager (CGM), BSNL.

What is BharatNet?

The project seeks to provide affordable last mile high speed broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across the country.

Nodal Ministry: for implementation of project is Ministry of Communication.

Objective: to facilitate delivery of e-governance, e-education, e-health, e-banking, Internet and other services to rural India.

Funding: It is being funded by Universal service Obligation Fund (USOF).

Mandate: It was set up to improve telecom services in rural and remote areas of country.

Progress Made:

Till date Wifi spots have been installed in 44,140 gram panchayats.

Project’s Phase I was completed in December 2017 and 1 lakh gram panchayats were made service ready.

Phase II is under implementation with the target of covering a total of 2 lakh gram panchayats by March 2020.

Inclusive Internet Index 2018: India ranks 47th

India was ranked 47th out of 86 countries in Inclusive Internet Index (III) 2018 report. India has slipped by 11 positions compared to 36th rank in 2017 III report due to low internet usage and poor quality.

The report was commissioned by Facebook in 2017 and is conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). It provides rigorous benchmark of national-level Internet inclusion across four categories: Availability, Affordability, Relevance and Readiness. 2018 edition of report has covered 91% of the world’s population and expanded data set of 86 countries, up from 75 countries in 2017.

Key Highlights of 2018 III report

India was ranked 62nd in Availability, 39th in Affordability, 37th in Relevance and 23rd in Readiness categories. Singapore, Canada, Poland and Malaysia have topped in respective categories.

Internet connectivity: It has grown by 8.3% over past year and has shown 65.1% increase in low-income countries with largest year-on-year increases in Rwanda (490.8%), Nepal (138.1%) and Tanzania (87.8%).

Mobile Internet gap: It is shrinking between rich and poor. In low-income countries, average cost of 500 MB mobile broadband connection fell from 12.1% of monthly income in 2017 to 10.0% in 2018, a 17.3% cost reduction.

Gender gap in Internet inclusion: It is still far too pervasive. In 69 out of 86 countries, more men have access to internet than women. On average across indexed countries, men are 33.5% more likely to have Internet access than women. This gap is substantially more pronounced in lower-income countries.

Empowerment: Use of internet is empowering, especially to citizens in Asia, Middle East and Africa. Privacy and security concerns have limited the use of the Internet especially in Europe.