The current government at the centre has been keeping Digital India as the banner-child of its policies. The scheme launched a few years back wasn’t just focused on urban digitalisation but also dreamt of extending connectivity to the rural portions of the country. However, unlike the urban areas where the telecom companies themselves are eager to deploy towers, offer various services like broadband and mobile telephony, such is not the case for areas that remain underserved or unserved. But, with a lot of e-governance services migrating to the digital domain, the use of these services requires to be extended to the rural part of India. This is exactly what BharatNet seeks to do.
CSCs To Be Bedrock of Last-Mile Connectivity
Firstly, the connectivity of rural India, and more specifically over 6 lakh villages would make it easier for the government to extend its services to the citizens. Through BharatNet, these villages will be connected via a fiber network which would be available to the Community Service Centres in the villages. Under a Public-Private-Partnership model, the owners of CSCs would be able to give away services to the consumers in the villages who largely remain untouched by the internet phenomenon still. Schemes like SUMAN to provide solar water pumps, One Nation One Ration Card, and the PDS distribution shops would be better linked to the network thus allowing smoother and more efficient e-governance.
BharatNet to Evolve Into Mobile Telephony Slowly
In the next evolution of the CSCs and the BharatNet use case, the consumers will also be able to use internet-based services like issuing AADHAR for themselves, getting easy loan facilities, agriculture insurance products and more. This will further increase the digital know-how in the public which remains elusive from the internet service. Also, at the same time, the launch of devices like JioPhone Next as in the case of the previous JioPhone would encourage the residents of these villages to pick up phones with internet-based features and in the future make a leap to smartphones as well. Not only this, but the facility of PoS and PDOs (as envisaged in the PM-WANI) scheme would only be possible on the foundation built on the back of BharatNet.
Although the road to total village digital penetration has been wrought with errors and pitfalls, a lot of which have been exposed in the quality of the network that has been deployed in these villages. The importance of the internet in these areas remains untapped. Even for the telecom companies which seek to expand their services beyond a saturated market, the LWE, hilly areas, and the rural grounds remain as the last hunting arena for more subscribers. These areas serve as potential customers and their integration into the network would not only mean increased income for the telecom companies which are financially ailing, but it would also mean the springing up of new services, digital products, and offerings that would be catering to the rural population exclusively. Thus, it goes unsaid that the success of BharatNet is imperative not only for the scheme and the sake of the government but also because it would bode well for the digital infrastructure and growth that India and her telecom companies envisage.