Ghar Tak Fibre? Not a distant dream anymore!

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Ram Kumar, a farmer in the Rajgir village, located in the Nalanda district of Bihar is looking at the skies again today, desperately waiting for the monsoon season to arrive. For the last 3 years, he has been struggling in making up a living for himself and his family. The reason is scanty rainfall in the state affecting the rice yield, which is primarily dependent on rainwater. The farmers face the drought challenge almost every year making agriculture highly vulnerable and unstable.

India has an agrarian-oriented economy, wherein around 70% of the rural population is involved in agriculture. But our farmers are faced with multiple challenges whether it comes to executing day-to-day farming operations or taking their farm produce to bigger markets. Most of the farmers are not equipped with the knowledge and technology to adopt innovative farming methods for accurate weather prediction, wastage reduction, boosting output, and increasing profit margin. Technology can ensure that every citizen, including the rural population, gets access to newer opportunities and innovative solutions and services.

At present, India has 504 million active Internet users, but they are mostly concentrated in urban areas. The Internet has still not penetrated rural India as deeply as needed. Around 70% of the rural population does not have access to the internet. For holistic socio-economic growth, India needs to extend equal opportunity to the rural areas to have not only access but meaningful digital services and use cases to help them transform their lives. Digitization of rural India is paramount and optical fibre connectivity is the first step towards this.

Optical Fibre to all 6 Lakh villages of India – What a great vision!

The Indian government envisaged the BharatNet project (initially National Optical Fibre Network) in 2011, with a vision to connect all the 2,50,000 gram panchayats through a high-speed optical network. The Indian government’s Digital India initiative focuses on three core components: the creation of digital infrastructure, delivering services digitally to all and increasing digital literacy. During the 74th Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Modi announced the plan to connect 6 lakh Indian villages in the next 1000 days with optical fibre. Under Bharatnet, more than 1.5 lakh gram panchayats have been connected with various initiatives and technologies and are now focusing on building and deploying solid infrastructure, which requires fibre at the centre of connectivity solutions. 

From Gaon Tak Fibre to Ghar Tak Fibre – A closer look at Bihar

According to the latest statistics by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), only 30.35% of the population in Bihar has access to internet connectivity and Wifi, which is much below India’s total internet connectivity of 55%. Amongst this, only 73.26% of the urban population and 22.61% of the rural population of Bihar has access to fibre to the home while in other states it is much more (98.10% rural connectivity in Kerala and above 90% urban connectivity in states like MP, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal).

Let’s look at some statistics related to optical fibre connectivity of rural Bihar.

  • Of all the Gram Panchayats of Bihar connected under phase one, 3,591-gram panchayats are non-operational, while the status of another 200 is unclear
  • As per the latest data, optic fibre cable has been laid only in 4,347 villages
  • Under phase 1 of BharatNet, 5,889 out of 8,745 Gram Panchayats are connected with the main internet grid of the state while 2,856 Gram Panchayats were connected under phase II. However, around 60% of the villages connected under phase I were non-operational

As part of his vision to connect six lakh Indian villages with optical fibre by 2024, PM Narender Modi has recently announced the Ghar Tak Fibre scheme to connect all 45,945 villages of Bihar with high-speed optical fibre internet by March 31, 2021. Ghar Tak Fibre scheme will jointly be executed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Department of Telecom, and Common Services Centre (CSC). The state government plans to provide at least five FTTH connections and a Wi-Fi hotspot in every village.

The Ghar Tak Fibre scheme is the right step towards the PM’s announcement on August 15, 2020, to connect all six lakh Indian villages with optical fibre internet in the next 1,000 days (by 2024).

How will the Ghar Tak Fibre scheme benefit Bihar?

The Ghar Tak Fibre scheme is a visionary project, which will start a ‘digital revolution’ to reach even the remotest corners of the state. The approach is outcome-based with a special focus on utilisation of the BharatNet with Service Level Agreement (SLA) commitment The CSC, with 34,821 centres in Bihar, will provide optical fibre Internet services for common citizens at every village of Bihar. Ghar Tak FIbre scheme will boost the digital infrastructure of villages by setting up optical fibre internet connectivity. FTTH access in villages will enable e-education, e-health, telemedicine, and e-agriculture. This will also allow for upskilling and education of the rural population that will enhance employability and support rural-based entrepreneurs.

Our farmers will benefit a lot from this; they will get real-time information about weather conditions, new techniques, seeds, crops, and practices. They will also be able to learn about the potential of organic farming. Imagine precision farming technology helping farmers deal with drought conditions and climate change. Moreover, they will be able to sell their produce anywhere in the country and abroad.

…Though challenges remain

To connect all the 45,945 villages by March 31, 2021, is an uphill task as the optical fibre cable has been laid only in 10% of the villages at present. To attain 100% FTTH connectivity, the optical fibre must be laid at the rate of 257 villages daily. The main challenges faced in Bihar at present are the lack of continued power and routines failure of relevant equipment, equipment theft, and faulty fibre. There are outdated cables that were laid during phase I, which need to be replaced. A lot of repair and maintenance work needs to be done.

From Ghar Tak fibre to living with pride – STL Garv

The vision of a Digital India is more just than laying optical fibre cable across each and every city and village. It is enabling infrastructure growth and literacy at both the urban and the rural level that, in turn, can enable increased agricultural productivity, improved healthcare access, and most importantly education for all, thus, fulfilling the country’s longstanding goal of ‘equal opportunity for all.

While digital connectivity is important, equally important is the ability for villagers to use this connectivity to improve their quality of life. With projects like STL Garv, faster fiberization has the potential to connect the remotest corners of India, ensuring no citizen or community is left behind in this digital world. At the same time, such initiatives allow skilling and educating the rural population to increase employability and support local entrepreneurs. STL Garv provides an integrated technology platform that allows villagers to rapidly and effectively use digital connectivity.  Garv’s applied infrastructure and services platform enhances technology usage in areas such as education and healthcare, sanitation and nutrition, increased agricultural output, the growth of productive enterprises to boost incomes, and enhanced security, gender equality and democratic engagement. It has been designed to enable maximum impact with maintainability and robustness and ease of use keeping in mind the needs of rural communities.

The government’s Ghar Tak Fibre Scheme is the first step in the right direction that will ensure that rural India is technologically empowered and is at par with the other developed nations.

From the very next year, Ram and many other farmers like him will no more be dependent on weather conditions for their living. With the latest farming technology, they will benefit in the long run with better crop yield and price for their produce.

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