Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said optical fibre connectivity would be laid to all 6 lakh villages of the country in 1,000 days and announced a new cybersecurity policy.
“We have to remove silos and the entire country has to move towards multi-modal connectivity infrastructure,” he said.
A high-speed internet connectivity via submarine optical fibre cable will be extended to Lakshadweep in this period, he said. Enhanced digital connectivity has proved to be of big help, especially in including villages in India’s development journey, the PM said.
A new cybersecurity policy in 2020 would replace the current one – the country’s first, released in 2013. That policy came in the context of leaks by American whistleblower Edward Snowden, which alleged US National Security Agency surveillance was tracking India’s domestic issues.
The National Cyber Security Strategy 2020 (NCSS 2020), overseen by the National Security Council Secretariat, collected public comments until January this year. These frameworks will have a bearing on incidents similar to the hacking WhatsApp of 121 Indians by Israeli cyber firm NSO Group last year.
While the government calls the optical fibre connectivity mission as the “world’s largest connectivity project”, BharatNet, which envisages laying of about 8 lakh km of incremental optical fibre cable (OFC) to all 2.50 lakh-plus gram panchayats at an estimated cost of Rs 42,068 crore, has had significant snags in deployment for years now. First, it was unable to meet its March 2020 deadline for its second phase of deployment, which was shifted to August 2021.
Even this month, BSNL did not have any bidders for a maintenance and upkeep tender for the fibre that is already laid. States are asking for more funds for this second phase and lamenting a lack of labour due to migrant exodus.
Besides, not many private players are utilising the already-laid fibre to provide services from gram panchayats onwards, even as rural internet penetration is growing independently through private telecom players.
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