After the direct cash transfer scheme, the UPA government is planning to attract the common man, struggling at the bottom of the economic pyramid, into the cyberspace.
In between these big ticket social schemes lies a hope that the empowered people will bring them back to power in 2014. The government is targeting 11 Lakh rural schools, 12. 5 lakh Aanganwadi centres and over 1.5 lakh health centres for its cyber revolution in next 5 to 10 years to bridge the digital divide while reaping the benefits of an untapped market.
An internal note of DoT accessed by ‘Express’ reveals that the UPA has short-listed two models to provide broadband access to people under its Bharat Broadband scheme which may cost `20,000 crore per year to the national exchequer.
The note says that the two models- BSNL’s Commercial Model and the Closed User Group (CUG) Model, which are under the government’s consideration, will provide the common man with broadband access. Pointing out reasons for spending huge amount of money for its cyber plan, it says that the present telephone infrastructure is in a state of saturation and the industry is not in a position to invest even on voice services.
“Broadband to the last mile, including panchayats, should therefore be viewed as a social responsibility and as a tool for building an enabling ecosystem for inclusive growth for a period of 5-10 years. During this period, economic viability will start showing up, when industry could come up in a big way,” it stated.
The note which was debated by the senior officials of Cabinet Secretariat last month raises serious doubts over the efficiency of the BSNL commercial model which will cost `20,000 crore to meet the objectives as envisaged in the plan. It says that running only one hour of video conferencing per day in only 2.5 lakh schools will cost the government `2,000 crore annually. “As this model is based on charging individual access points and a ‘retail’ model in that sense, it is not possible to optimise the collective government usage and cut down the cost.” The Centre is now worried about the role of stakeholders in the entire plan.
It observed that all stakeholders including telecom service providers are operating in their own silos and need to be convinced for a collaborative approach which would provide level playing field for businesses.