Monday, May 16, 2011

Text of the Speech of Shri Kapil Sibal on Working together towards 2015 at Opening Session of World Summit on the Information Society 

The following is the text of the speech of Shri Kapil Sibal, the Union Minister of Communications & IT, Government of India on “Working Together Towards 2015” at the High Level Opening Session of World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva on May 16, 2011.

“Today we have gathered, to share our experiences and achievements and to discuss issues, to transform the world community into an information society as visualized by world leaders while setting up the Millennium Development Goals during the Millennium Summit in 8th September, 2000.

“Tomorrow i.e. 17th May, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is going to complete 146th year of its existence. I would like to congratulate ITU and its management on this occasion for the exemplary work and numerous initiatives towards building a truly people-centric, inclusive and development-oriented information society.

“In the evolution of human civilization, the role of information is the single most important contributor as tool of empowerment. Information in true sense is an inexhaustible resource and it is a pre-requisite the social, economic and political development for individuals, organizations and nations for the development. As we know, the information society is an evolving concept that has reached different levels across the World, reflecting the different stages of development. Technological and other changes are rapidly transforming the environment in which the information society is developed.

“During the past decade, information and communication technologies (ICTs) continued to spread throughout the world, and more and more people have now gained access to the Internet and its wealth of information and applications. In the developing world, which is still facing infrastructure bottlenecks, mobile phones have revolutionized telecommunication and have reached an estimated average 49.5 per cent penetration rate by 2008– from close to zero only ten years ago. Back in India, Mobile Tele-density has already jumped from 5.18% in Mar 2005 to 67.98% in Mar 2011. Such spread is faster than that of any other technological tool witnessed by human society in recent past. The number of Internet users, on the other hand, has grown at a much slower rate, in particular in the developing world, where at the end of 2007 only 13 out of 100 inhabitants used the traditional means of Internet (PC).

“I strongly believe that ICT could be a powerful tool of development and poverty reduction through empowerment of masses, and of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Embedding ICT in the overall scheme of governance and public services is so vital for achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) declared by United Nations in 8th September 2000, that we have identified ICTs as part of the MDGs.

“ICT can help achieving MDGs in more than one ways:

i) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger- ICT enabled public service delivery systems leads to better targeting and empowerment of common man through timely information for making key decisions.

ii) Achieve Universal primary education- ICT increases the reach of trained teachers through distance learning programs. High quality and low cost distance learning programs helps in universalisation of primary education even in the remotest and the most inaccessible parts of the nations

iii) Promote gender equality and empower women - Through ICT we can deliver educational and literacy programmes specifically targeted to poor girls and women using appropriate technologies

iv) Reduce child mortality improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases - Through telemedicine and information dissemination we can provide quality health services to even ordinary citizens.

“In totality, ICT helps the society at large by improving the quality of governance and ‘empowering’ the common man. Govt of India is well aware of this fact and the ICTs has been identified as key element of the future development plans and programs.

“If we see that great growth story of telecom sector in India, we will find that due to coordinated efforts of the government and industry, the Indian telecommunications sector has been scaling newer heights. With 845 million Telecom subscribers and a teledensity of over 70%, the Indian society is ready to launch ICTs services for the masses on this platform. With more than 12 million broadband users and a ‘National Broadband Plan’ (aimed to cover all 2.5 lakh Village Panchayats) on the anvil, India is ready to improve the quality of life of common man through e-Governance services.

“Broadband connectivity is increasingly being seen as an integral driver of improved socio-economic performance. Indian Government strongly believes that all citizens of India should have access to broadband and the transformative opportunities it offers. Broadband services empower masses. They allow individuals to access new career and educational opportunities, they help businesses reach new markets and improve efficiency and they enhance the Government’s capacity to deliver critical services like health, banking and commerce to all of its citizens.

“Provision of Broadband in rural and remote areas will also help in bridging the so-called “digital divide” and the widespread adoption of broadband in rural areas will have a multiplier effect over the long-term. It will help improve productivity in rural areas, help overcome the constraints of an inadequate transport infrastructure and overall improve the quality of life in rural areas. Given the significant economic and social benefits, expanding affordable access to broadband has become a high priority for the Government.

“The Indian demographics with a large rural population suggests that the development of a robust broadband ecosystem will be the key to meet Government’s objectives. It is a known fact that wireless is the quickest and most efficient medium to provide broadband services in the access network. World over, wireless broadband technologies have been identified as the via media to overcome the hurdles faced by wireline. Realising that Pan-India OFC rollout under ‘National Broadband Plan’ covering all 2.5 lakh Village Panchayats may take some time, Indian Government has also gone ahead with 2 operator based ‘National Wireless Broadband’ scheme. We therefore believe that the future growth of broadband in developing countries, especially India, will see wider deployment with greater emphasis on wireless networks.

“The Government has finalized the ‘National Broadband Plan’ which will build the OFC network, an open access optical fibre network connecting all 2.5 lakh Village Panchayats spread across country, by utilizing the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) and creating an institutional mechanism for management and operation of the NOFN (National Optical Fibre Network) for ensuring non-discriminatory access to all service providers. We are proposing that an agency will be designated for establishment, management and operation of the NOFN. In initial stages, our Public Sector Company with vast rural reach, BSNL will be the Executing Agency with a dedicated project implementation team, consisting of carefully chosen personnel from various organizations including BSNL. This team would be the vehicle for implementation of NOFN at this stage. Policy decisions, supervision and control of the Executing Agency for implementation will be carried out by a High level Committee (HLC). Scope of work, execution strategy, funding requirement and time frame for the execution of the programme i.e. creation of NOFN will be decided by this HLC depending on the funds made available from USOF, response from State Governments regarding Right of Way issues and the projected traffic demand while committing to provide OFC connectivity upto Village Panchayats. An Advisory Body consisting of major TSPs (Telecom Service Providers) and experts is also being set up by Government to advise on implementation issues and upstream and downstream integration as well as on issues relating to non-discriminatory access.

“To encourage private sector to participate in Government efforts, last year, we had conducted a very successful auction of the 3G & BWA spectrum. It is expected that total 160 MHz spectrum would now be available for BWA use by the next year. Our approach would be technology neutrality for provision of spectrum for BWA. It is upto service providers to choose the best technology (LTE/WiMAX /WiFi) suited to them taking into consideration many aspects such as availability of equipment, efficient use of spectrum and seamless roaming etc. The operators have started rolling out the wireless broadband networks in the country and very soon the services will be available in the entire country.

“The availability of various applications ‘on the move’ will attract more users by increasing the value & utility of broadband. Various stakeholders like service providers/ vendors have started investing heavily for the creation of application stores, which allows users to browse and download applications with no or minimum costs, thereby increasing the accessibility and adoptability of broadband.

“The capacity of a wireless network (and therefore the network’s ability to support wireless broadband services and applications) in any given location depends on spectral efficiency, as well as the amount of spectrum the operator has. Mobile network operators have implemented or are considering various mechanisms to maximize capacity by managing bandwidth consumption in the absence of access to more licensed spectrum. While engineering greater spectral efficiency and building more cell sites have increased some capacity, taken alone, they are unlikely to address the expected magnitude of the insatiable demand for spectrum. Government of India is aware that in long term, more & more spectrum will be needed to enable mobile operators to keep pace with consumer demand for more and faster mobile broadband.

“Once the public infrastructure for delivery of e-services on broadband platform is ready, the next challenge before us is to take e-services ( G2B, B2B and B2C) to the doorstep of the common man. So we formulated National e-Governance Plan. NeGP evisages to take more than 100 services to the doorstep of common man through more than 2.5 lakh Common Service Centres (CSCs). All services will be delivered through 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs). This ambitious e-governance plan is backed by reengineering process of government services and capacity development plan.

“Gentleman, we have tremendous opportunities and challenges in front of us. I fell that we can effectively use our successes and failures as lessons for experience sharing, for building program and polices so that ICT can be effectively deployed to address the key issues of poverty reduction, gender empowerment, education, health and environment sustainability. Government of India is fully committed to make the vision of a connected nation and information society, a true success. “

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