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BRINGING THE INTERNET TO EVERYONE

Focus: GS-II Social Justice, GS-III Science and Technology

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the influence of technology in our lives – We live in times where we can buy or sell anything online, get quality access to healthcare, government services and education online, etc.

Marginalised and isolated

  • Meanwhile, a substantial section of our population, including the urban poor, the elderly and those in remote areas, find themselves marginalised and isolated because of their inability to navigate the digital space.
  • They find themselves unable to get access to health and welfare alerts, critical services, engage in upskilling or learning, or take part in economic activities without potentially exposing themselves to the virus.

Last mile connectivity

  • In 2016, the UN General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution that declared Internet access as a human right.
  • In 2011, the Indian government launched the National Optical Fibre Network project for providing broadband connectivity to 2,50,000 Gram Panchayats.
  • In 2015, the programme was renamed Bharat Net and integrated into the Digital India initiative.
  • It included plans for tying up with and subsidising 4G telecom operators for setting up 700,000 Wi-Fi hotspots spread across each of our villages for last mile connectivity. But the rate of Internet penetration still stands at 50%.
  • The National Education Policy 2020 advocates greater integration of technology. However, India still lacks a concrete roadmap for ICT training in various proficiency levels for our diverse population segments.

Way Forward

  • Internet connectivity has to be ensured in our remotest areas by accelerating the deployment of additional optical fibres, wireless technology, drones and satellites.
  • Community access points have to be installed in every nook and corner to ensure that even those who lack their own devices can access the digital space.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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