Two years after the Left government in Kerala declared internet a basic human right, it accorded formal administrative sanction to a project on Wednesday that would help nearly 20 lakh families below the poverty line in the state to access high-speed internet.
The flagship K-Fon project involves laying out an extensive state-wide optical fibre network using the resources of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited (KSITL), thus connecting government offices, public schools and homes.
The Rs 1548-crore plan will be funded with the help of KIIFB, the investment arm of the state government that recently went global with the listing of its masala bonds on the London Stock Exchange. A consortium of firms led by the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) has bagged the tender for the project.
The project, which has a deadline of December 2020, was a key campaign promise of the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the run-up to the 2016 Assembly elections. It has been eager to show that in a state excelling in basic social indicators, it wants to go one step further to give the access to internet to every individual.
While around two million BPL families are the immediate target, those who cannot afford to get high-speed internet will now be able to get it at affordable rates. Television cable providers and internet service providers can get involved in the K-Fon project as well.
Apart from household use, the superior optical fibre network will provide a major fillip to the state’s industry as well. The project is seen as extremely dear to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who has been working overtime to draw more investors into the state and ramp up Kerala’s technical infrastructure for big-ticket projects. Incubation centres and startup conclaves are also being hosted by the government at routine intervals to boost tech confidence among entrepreneurs. In 2018, Kerala was ranked 21st on the list of states with respect to ease of doing business.
The government in a statement said, the K-Fon project will be constructive for projects rooted in artificial intelligence, blockchain, internet of things (IoT) and startups. Around 30,000 schools and government offices will be connected with high-speed internet networks. In villages, local self-help groups can avail the network to conduct sales through e-commerce. At present, only about 20% mobile towers in the state are connected through optical fibre-networks.