New Delhi: Minister of Railways Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu today inaugurated Seminar on ‘Bridging the Rural Disconnect’. The seminar was organised by RailTel Corporation of India Limited, a PSU of Indian Railways on the occasion of its 17th Foundation Day.
Member Staff Railway Board Shri Pradeep Kumar, Member Rolling Stock Railway Board Shri Hemant Kumar, other Railway Board Members, Senior officials from Railways, Department of Telecommunication, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Railway PSUs, and senior official of the Telecom sector also graced the occasion with their presence.
Various Industry stakeholders including various Central & State Ministries, Telecom organizations, Service Providers, MNCs, Social organizations participated to explore alternate ideas to address the issue of Digital Divide between the Urban and Rural India.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of Railways Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu said that Railway PSU RailTel, plays a crucial role in providing digital connectivity through optical fibre. RailTel’s PAN India Optic Fibre network is providing connectivity to more than four thousand stations in the country.
Railway Minister pointed out that the technology changes very fast and becomes obsolete in due course and hence it is necessary to keep pace with the latest changes and modification in the existing technology and also keep adopting updated forms of technology. Indian is a very vast country and has many villages many of them being far flung and are not connected in any way. It is a huge challenge to reach out to all villages which we need to focus on. While we need widespread network of multiple modes of transport like rail and road to reach out to far flung areas, it is also necessary to provide digital rural connectivity across India. We have to definitely bridge rural-urban digital divide so that the benefits of modernization and latest technology flow to rural areas also. We also have to fulfil the aspirations of youth population of the country and digital connectivity will also help them in a big way.
Referring to the usage of digital connectivity, Shri Suresh Prabhu said that it can be used for telemedicine, education, entertainment and may other areas. Referring to the high speed WiFi Broadband services at railway stations, the Railway Minister pointed out that RailTel in partnership with Google is implementing it and this service has already been provided at 50 stations will complete the target of 100 stations by December, 2016.
As per tradition the programme started with lamp lighting followed by the keynote address by Shri R.K. Bahuguna, CMD, RailTel. In his address he gave a brief introduction about the subject of Rural Digital Divide and how it is affecting the overall growth of country. He set the platform for discussion on how we need to act collectively to develop the digital infrastructure of the Rural area.
After the inaugural session the panel discussion on Collaborative methods to bridge the rural Digital Divide explored the possibility of adopting the methods of collaborative economies, platforms and micro entrepreneurs to drive down the cost of internet access in rural India. During the discussion Sh. A Seshagiri Rao, Director/NPM, RailTel highlighted Railwire as a successful model of providing broadband specially in rural and Tier-2/3 cities.
The second panel discussion dealt with the topic of Wi-Fi as a platform for Digital Inclusion. The moderator of the panel discussion, Sh. Manohar Raja, GM/EB, RailTel, elaborated that Wi-Fi is acknowledged as a technology for creating more affordable internet access given that the devices are affordable and readily available and also there is no cost of spectrum. Seven out of eight Indians access the internet through mobiles and for most Indians the only experience of internet is the narrow band relatively expensive internet of GPRS/2G.
The panelists also stated that the internet itself is morphing into a video network and the new internet is not experienced by majority of Indians. Public Wi-Fi can be leveraged to not only bridge the digital divide but also the emerging ‘experience divide’ of Internet by providing public Wi-Fi spots in a sustainable manner. The panelist explored various methods of creating sustainable public Wi-Fi service in rural India.
The seminar ended with the vote of Thanks by Sh. Arun Jain, GGM/CC, RailTel
RailTel Corporation a “Mini Ratna (Category-I)” PSU is the largest neutral telecom services providers in the country owning a Pan-India optic fiber network covering all important towns & cities of the country and several rural areas covering 70% of India’s population. RailTel is in the forefront in providing nationwide Broadband Telecom & Multimedia Network in all parts of the country in addition to modernization of Train operations and administration network systems for Indian Railways. With its Pan India high capacity network, RailTel is working towards creating a knowledge society at various fronts and has been selected for implementation of various mission-mode Govt. of India projects in the telecom field.