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Bridge the rural digital divide

High-speed internet is no longer a luxury in today’s society and business world, it is a basic necessity.

The idea that information and communication technologies are vital for quality civic life is not new. The accessibility of rural areas to the network is a test of the digital divide. There is a critical need to build capacity at all levels, and take measures to increase network and broadband availability to ensure people have access to improved livelihood. Whether residing in remote rural communities, in urban neighborhoods, or anywhere in between, it is absolutely necessary to make sure that these disconnected communities are not left behind.

There are different ways to eliminate the digital divide in rural areas, Improved rural coverage requires regulators to release sufficient spectrum, grant spectrum licenses that allow flexible use of new and emerging technologies, permit operators to trade spectrum as needed, provide a clear roadmap for future releases of spectrum. Use of Power lines and satellite communications offer new possibilities of universal access to the Internet, and lack of telephone lines will not limit access.

Our nation’s commitment to equal economic opportunity, educational advancement, and democratic participation can only thrive if everyone has equivalent access to these critical communications networks. The public sector, and national governments in particular, have an instrumental role to play by aligning key policies around best practice approaches to spectrum allocation and pricing, infrastructure sharing, sector specific taxation, access to public infrastructure, license conditions and market structure. 

It is critical to ensure access to services for all citizens as bridging the digital divide will strengthen the entire country economically and socially. New technologies will play a critical role in bringing communication services to people and communities in rural and remote areas, but for that both the private sector and public sector have important roles to play in improving the business case for mobile network coverage expansion.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy flip of the switch that can bring network and high-speed internet to all unconnected areas. A lot of efforts have been made to provide these services in recent decades, BharatNet is targeting internet connectivity in local bodies in every panchayat in the country and is trying to speed up the process with assistance of universal service obligation fund (USOF) under the public private partnership. Progress in this respect can bring about stronger and more inclusive growth from the digital revolution irrespective of geographical location.

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