The government on Tuesday said it will ensure mobile connectivity to over 55,000 villages over the next five years, with an investment of Rs20,000 crore, using the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
Part of the 'Digital India' initiative, universal mobile connectivity is important for the internet and mobile banking as many of the users can seamlessly work on a real time basis.
Under the Digital India programme, which is the umbrella programme, the government will initially spend Rs69,524 crore on various IT and telecom projects.
''It (mobile / smart phones) has become an important part of our lives. For example, I have seen people at the airport showing their tickets on their smart phones instead of a printed ticket,'' communications and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a conference of IT ministers and IT secretaries of states / union territories on Tuesday to discuss the 'Digital India' programme.
'Digital India' is a new initiative of the government, to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. ''The focus is on being transformative to realise that Indian Talent (IT) + Information Technology (IT) = India Tomorrow (IT).''
Digital India is an umbrella programme that covers multiple government ministries and departments. It weaves together a large number of ideas and thoughts into a single, comprehensive vision so that each of them is seen as part of a larger goal. The programme is to be coordinated by DeitY and implemented by the entire government machinery.
The vision of 'Digital India' is centered on three key areas namely, digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen, governance and services on demand and digital empowerment of citizens.
Digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen includes availability of high speed internet as a core utility for delivery of services to citizens, cradle-to-grave digital identity, mobile phone and bank account enabling citizen participation in digital and financial sphere, easy access to common service centres, shareable private space on a public cloud and safe and secure cyber-space.
The minister said with the Digital India concept being given highest priority by the prime minister, in the days to come, the low key department of IT in the states would soon be a high profile department, acting as a most important driver of change in the country.
Apart from that, Prasad said sectors such as e-commerce can become a big industry because of the broadband connectivity and high speed internet in various parts of the country, which are not connected yet.
''I see e-commerce becoming a big thing because people living in villages also have big aspirations. If we spread the broadband connectivity, I see many warehouses coming up, giving jobs to as many people in those areas,'' he added.
Speaking at the conference, telecom secretary Rakesh Garg said that various estimates have put the number of villages that do not have mobile coverage between 42,000 and 55,000.
"We will connect half of these villages in the next 3 years and the remaining in two years. For this purpose the country has been divided into 5 areas and survey of villages is being done to build towers," Garg said.
The secretary said survey work has been done in North Eastern states and is continuing in the Himalayan states, which will be followed by Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and others.
The `Governance and Services on Demand' programme includes seamlessly integrated services across departments or jurisdictions, availability of services in real time from online and mobile platforms, entitlements made available on the cloud, digitally transformed services for improving ease of doing business, making financial transactions electronic and cashless and leveraging GIS for decision support systems and development.
`Digital Empowerment of Citizens' includes universal digital literacy, accessible digital resources universally, availability of digital resources / services in Indian languages, collaborative digital platforms for participative governance and portability of all entitlements through cloud. Citizens would not be required to produce government documents or certificates, etc in physical form.
The Digital India Programme pulls together many existing schemes, which will be restructured and re-focused in terms of enhancing the scope, leveraging emerging technologies like cloud, mobile, etc, focusing on transformational process reengineering and process improvements, undertaking interoperable and integrated service delivery based on standards and will be implemented in a synchronised manner.
Digital India will also enhance the portfolio of ''Made in India'' electronic devices, products and services and will create job opportunities for our youths within the country.
The deliberations and interactions during the conference would enable better coordination between centre and states to achieve the vision of 'Digital India' and digitally empower the country through ICT and e-Governance.