Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday said Kerala had no option but to create a knowledge-based economy if it were to generate employment, produce wealth, power innovation and drive manufacturing in a precarious post-COVID-19 world. The State would edge closer to the goal with the commissioning of the Kerala Fibre Optic Network (K-Fon) in December, he said at his COVID-19 news briefing here.
Mr. Vijayan reviewed the ₹1,500-crore Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board-funded project, which promised to provide high-speed Internet access to the State’s population. It would provide Internet free of charge to an estimated 20 lakh BPL (below the poverty line) households. A consortium of private and public companies, including Bharat Electronics Limited, is responsible for the scheme.
The power distribution grid of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) would host the fibre optic cables to ensure faster and deeper Internet penetration at the domestic level. The grid would also provide commercial Internet service at less than market rates to schools, hospitals, colleges, government offices and private sector establishments.
K-FON would drive the digitisation of the State’s economy. The robust high-speed Internet backbone would induce global businesses to shift to Kerala. K-FON would also ensure that customers in Kerala were not held ransom to the fluctuations in the spectrum market. Mr. Vijayan said the pandemic had forced society to rely more on the Internet to transact business, share information and connect.
The world was increasingly becoming virtual, given the restrictive physical distancing norms impelled by the pandemic. It was increasingly using the Internet to bridge distances and push life and trade forward.
Kerala had no choice but to adapt to the new normal. It had to march in lockstep with competing economies and ensure others did not steal a march on its vital interests.