Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Centre to spend Rs, 30,000 crore on linking villages with broadband

This story appeared on the last page (p. 20) of  today's  The Hindu.

It says that Sam Pitroda (Advisor to the PM on Infrastructure, Innovation and Information) announced that that the centre would spend the named quite large sum on providing more than 2.5 lakh villages with broadband connectivity. 'We need 30,000 to 40,000 more kms of optical fibre,' said Pitroda, and about '25,000 to 30,000 crore for all this'. They are working on reducing the cost of the project, he says.

Interesting to me are the following features implicit in the story:

1. Have these 2.5 lakh villages wanted broadband connectivity? If asked, would they possibly want other things, such as better irrigation, more health facilities, and primary or secondary schools that work?

2. 'The connectivity', apparently, 'would not only improve the delivery of government schemes, but would also empower rural people'. I'm wondering about these government schemes on the internet that our educated villagers would widely access and read. I'm also wondering if all of these 2.5 lakh villages have the means to actually deliver these schemes to the people

3. Who is manufacturing the optical fibre? What is their history in the industry? I'm not asking the next few questions, but you know what they are :)

4. Apparently our villagers will have to pay 'Rs. 1.20 a minute to the US, Rs 1.20 mobile and Rs 7.20 on landline to the UK, and Rs 1.20 to China'. Wow. Our villages are clearly better networked internationally than anyone thought.

This, to me is the familiar story of development planning in India. In 1978, a man called Mahbub-ul-Haq, founder of the UN Human Development Reports, wrote a book called The Poverty Curtain. In it, he commented on the gaps between intention and fact in development policy making:

'Development planners are quite fond of making a distinction between planning and implementation. When hard pressed, they generally argue that while development planning is their responsibility, its implementation is the responsibility of the entire political and economic system. This is no more than a convenient alibi.'

To the decades-old problems with development planning, we, in this era, add the profit motives implicit (or explicit) in being involved in the exploding scene of new India telecom. What we get, inexplicably, is the picture of a rural India with a burning need to be in touch with the US, the UK and China -- on broadband.

Figure it out.


Beq said...

Figure it out indeed. It stinks!

Sujoy said...

And only a 52,000 cr. allocation by the HRD on education ? Surely you're joking Mr. Sibal ????

Maureen Mitra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen Mitra said...

The money would be better spent on toilets.

Chandrima said...

broadband connectivity may actually lead to better irrigation, more health facilities, and education systems that work for these villages...IT is able to give faster and wider access to better service delivery some times than the traditional route.

good luck with the blog!

Think a li'l. said...

I don't know if "figure it out" will work in this cacophony that surrounds us...you just might have to "spell it out"! http://strike-a-pause.blogspot.com/2010/08/63-years-and-counting.html