Home Cellular science Broadband as a basic right will reduce poverty

Broadband as a basic right will reduce poverty

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The pandemic has opened up vast arenas for techpreneurs to showcase their skills. Remote work and collaboration tools have created new business models. Science became more human as larger populations understood it better. Technology is now pervading all sectors. Artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing and data analytics are the buzzwords that make our lives easier every day. Remarkable changes in the way we transact, work and play would have been science fiction at some point. Pushing for greater investment in next-gen technologies is now table stakes. Technology consultancy Gartner predicts global IT spending will reach $4.5 trillion this year, a 5.1% increase from 2021.

Cheap data plans and affordable phones have fueled a surge in internet penetration, creating unparalleled levels of convenience for end users. A study by analyst firm Nielsen found that of India’s 646 million internet users, 352 million are in rural areas. Although 60% of rural India does not have internet access, there are 20% more rural internet users than urban internet users. In 2020, India’s smartphone penetration rate reached 54% and was estimated to reach 96% in 2040, more than double from 2016 when only around 23% of the total population used smartphones.

Technological transformations are not isolated events; it’s more like an octopus with arms dipping in various sectors complementing/feeding each other, growing along the way. Today, dazzling possibilities are emerging with 5G, the next generation of cellular technology. Location science is transforming key development sectors like health, logistics, mobility, water, agriculture, and more. The government is redefining development programs on the back of digital technologies with flagship programs like Digital India, Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, Smart cities, Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM), PM e-Vidya, the rural property survey Svamiva diet, and many others. Online education, telemedicine, robotic surgeries, the rise of metaverse apps, home deliveries and many such facilities are having a huge transformational impact on our lives. AI-based diagnosis, disease surveillance and virtual health are now well understood. As the online world opens up new possibilities, broadband connectivity should become a basic right. Internet is a fundamental human right in Finland, Estonia, France, Spain, Greece and Costa Rica. Much like roads and highways, in a digital world, digital highways bring the kind of connectivity, remarkable speed and safety that only the digital world is capable of. In terms of possibilities, we’re only going to be limited by imagination (or lack thereof) now!

India’s stack with its twin components – Aadhaar, the unique identifier for every citizen, and UPI, the digital payments infrastructure built by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) – has bridged the gaps in financial inclusion and effectively provides services to citizens. According to a PwC study, UPI transactions grew at a compound annual growth rate of 785% between 2017 and 2020.

The decade-old Bharat Net project aims to gradually deliver a minimum broadband connectivity of 100 Mbit/s to every 250,000 Gram Panchayats (GPs), covering almost 625,000 villages. Unfortunately, it has been plagued with delays resulting in a mismatch in the accessibility of Bharat India. A research paper from Ericsson points out that a 10% increase in mobile broadband adoption results in an initial 0.8% increase in GDP. This is an important consideration for policymakers to take a long-term view and usher in a new era of development growth where the entire population of 1.3 billion people is equally covered.

Connectivity allows entrepreneurship and great ideas to thrive. The government cannot be present everywhere, to solve all the micro-problems. Such initiatives are best taken at the local level. And for that, we need connectivity. For innovation to pollinate in rural areas, among marginalized communities, for women to explore their potential, for all children to acquire greater skills, it is important to give them access first. CK Prahalad, the well-known strategist used to say, “The poor are poor because they have no information”. And therefore, broadband as a basic right will reduce the number of poor people in the country. play planning for growth is fundamental for equity In the same logic, quality broadband should be a basic right because it is crucial for economic growth.

Dr. Ajai Chowdhry is Founder, HCL, Chairman, Epic Foundation. He is recognized as the father of hardware in India. The opinions expressed are personal.

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