India will build a broadband highway connecting 2.5 lakh panchayats (spread over six lakh villages) across the country in the next three years to provide a host of public services, union communications and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced. About 50,000 panchayat will receive broadband connectivity this fiscal, followed by one lakh each over the next two years.
"Our PM (Narendra Modi) wants Wi-Fi in cities and towns and broadband connectivity in every school across the country," Prasad said.
An internet penetration of mere 11 per cent is a huge challenge for India, since lesser developed countries like Russia, Brazil and Indonesia have a much higher penetration. Prasad appealed to the IT industry to help the government in achieving the target of providing broadband connectivity to local bodies.
"You should now make India a destination for IT products by developing innovative technologies and products that can be used for e-education, e-healthcare and e-governance," Prasad told executive council members of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM).
"You should create a dedicated portal for lost and found children that can be used nationwide by agencies to trace them when their details are uploaded as hundreds of them (children) go missing, are kidnapped or separated from their families," he further suggested.
In the past, various ministries have had tie-ups with startups. Most recently, a group of IITians launched Tripigator.com, a travel planning engine in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism.
According to NASSCOM president R Chandrashekhar, the cost of providing broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh local bodies was estimated to be a whopping Rs 20,000 crore, but the potential for business via the facility would be two-fold, with a multiplier effect on the economy at large.
Ajit Balakrishnan, founder and CEO, Rediff.com had earlier told Techcircle.in that the rate of internet broadband needs to be slashed to Rs 100 per month. "When we get there, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to innovate and create products to cater to everyone," he had said.