Interview

Broadband connectivity to all gram Panchayats is a goal : R Chandrashekhar, Government of Andhra Pradesh, India

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R Chandrashekhar
Secretary, Department of Telecom and
Chairman, Telecom Commission, GoI

R Chandrashekhar, a 1975 batch Indian Administrative Services officer, has held a wide variety of key assignments, both in the Government of India and the State Government of Andhra Pradesh. He has been the driving force behind formulation of various national policies, agendas, strategies and action plans for e-Governance in the country, as CMD of AP Industrial Infrastructure Corp., and later as IT Secretary, Department of Information Technology (DIT), Andhra Pradesh and as Secretary, DIT, GoI. Chandrashekhar has recently been appointed as the Secretary, Department of Telecom and Chairman, Telecom Commission, GoI. Having deep understanding of the issues and problems related to IT implementations in the country, expectations are high from him in his current assignment. In conversation with Ravi Gupta, and Pravin Prashant, he talks about his Department’s focus on broadband-enabling the gram panchayats and on the role of mobile governance.

Recently, you have moved from Department of Information Technology to Department of Communications. What would be your focus in your new role?

The top agenda for Department of Communications will be connectivity and e-Governance.  We have some connectivity limitations in rural areas. Clearly, there is a need to expedite role of connectivity. Certainly, we need broadband connectivity for Gram Panchayats.

What is the approach of the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) in chalking out a time-bound action plan for ensuring broadband connectivity to all Gram Panchayats?

Broadband connectivity to all Gram Panchayats is on and we will put in place the details by the end of the current year.

The broadband connectivity to all Gram Panchayats is not only for e-Governance but also for a lot of other things. The connectivity will support things like telemedicine, tele-education, financial inclusion, gaming and entertainment. So, the rollout of broadband has an important purpose of integrating rural and urban areas, thereby spreading economic opportunities evenly in both the areas.

In general, it has been observed that 10 percent increase in broadband would have 1.4 percent increase in per capita GDP growth. It will also lead to growth in governance and development.

What is the plan being worked out for connecting Gram Panchayats in the country? 

The 2G voice services are quite satisfactory in rural areas. In terms of Gram Panchayat connectivity,   logistically as well as economically, it will be a combination of OFC and wireless. We have a good pan-India OFC backbone. Wireless will be used for providing last mile connectivity to public institutions and also for providing backhaul.

In terms of wireless connectivity, we are looking at area connectivity and not point to point connectivity so that the bandwidth is shared by all government institutions.

What changes do you foresee with the rollout of 3G and BWA services by private operators in bringing citizen service delivery through mobile and small form factor devices?

BSNL, the incumbent operator had received spectrum earlier and has already commenced services. This will get accelerated with private operators rolling out 3G and BWA services in different circles. The services in rural areas will increase and a whole host of mobile applications will come in to create a new ecosystem.

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