Come November, all villages in Kerala will have access to high-speed internet access, making it India’s first state with broadband (defined as 256 kpbs and above) connectivity in every village.
Kerala has about 1,400 villages and 999 panchayats, and this initiative is expected to provide a major boost to the Akshaya scheme — the flagship information, communication and technology (ICT) initiative being undertaken by the state government — to make the state 100 per cent e-literate.
In keeping with the government’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) scheme, the Kerala government started a campaign to connect the unconnected areas of the state last year along with BSNL, the largest telecom services provider in the state. As of now, the government claims to have provided broadband connections in all except nine villages where it feels it is not feasible to provide connection because of geographic location.
“When we launched the campaign last year, all except 175 villages had broadband connection. The state government provided speedy clearance and provided land to set up telecom towers to expedite the process. As of now, only nine villages, in the most inaccessible areas, left to be connected,” Ajay Kumar, IT secretary, Government of Kerala, told Business Standard. He said, the government plans to announce its achievement, of being the first state to have 100 per cent broadband connectivity, sometime in November this year.
The Akshaya scheme, launched earlier by Kerala to make at least one member in each household computer literate, has so far covered all 999 panchayats in the state. About 2,200 Akshaya centres (similar to the Central government’s proposed citizens’ service centres) today conducts computer literacy programme in Kerala villages other than proving various citizen-centric services like payment of electricity bills, phone bills and disseminating information about various micro finance schemes.
Some of the centres having broadband connectivity also provide services like eFiling of income tax returns, getting online applications of the public services examination and getting applications forms for various purposes from the websites of the state government.
“Earlier, we used to send training modules to the Akshaya centres which do not have broadband connections, in the form of CD. Now, all Akshaya centres in the state will have broadband connection and will provide impetus to the eLiteracy programme in the state,” Kumar added. The state claims there are at least two Akshaya centres in every panchayat which has been given at least five computers. While the cost of laying additional lines (cables) and telecom towers have been taken care of by the respective service providers, the state government is working as a catalyst to create demand for broadband services. As part of it, all government offices interested in a broadband connection can take the decision at the local level without waiting for the clearance .