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Centre promises free Wi-Fi to 48,000 villages till March 2020

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad  

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‘2.5 lakh gram panchayats to be connected via optical fibre’

To promote uptake of the Internet in rural areas, Telecom and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday promised free Wi-Fi to about 48,000 villages, which are connected through the government’s flagship Bharatnet project, for the next three months.

“We have already connected 1.3 lakh gram panchayats through Bharatnet... Our target is to take this to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats... To promote utilisation of Bharatnet services, we will provide Wi-Fi for free in all villages connected through BharatNet till March 2020,” the Minister said. With the BharatNet initiative, the Centre aims to connect all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats through optical fibre. Till now, about 48,000 villages have been connected to WiFi using BharatNet.

He was speaking at the inauguration of Digital Village Gurawara in Rewari (Haryana). Mr. Prasad added that the government is aiming to convert at least 15% of the total villages to digital village in the next 3-4 years.

Digital Village, which was conceptualised by the Common Service Centre (CSC) SPV under he Ministry of Electronics and IT, is a village where citizens can avail various e-services of the central and the State governments, as well as of private players. These include banking, insurance, tele-medicine, pension and e-governance services. Such villages are also equipped with LED bulb assembly unit, sanitary napkin unit, and rural-Wifi infrastructure.

CSC SPV CEO Dinesh Tyagi said, initially, the scheme was unveiled at five locations as a pilot. “Considering the success of the pilot, we have been given the task of setting up 700 Digital Villages across the country, one in every district.”

In the interim budget this year, then Finance Minister Piyush Goyal had announced the government’s target of one lakh villages as Digital Villages over the five years. This, he had said, would be achieved by expanding the reach of CSCs in the country. Mr. Tyagi said there were about 3.6 lakh CSCs in the country covering 2.25 lakh gram panchayats.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 10:00:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/centre-promises-free-wi-fi-to-48000-villages-till-march-2020/article30397415.ece

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