The Centre’s digital India drive seems making inroads into the hinterland with data consumption in rural areas increasing by 400% in the past one year, official data showed, indicating a large appetite for internet connectivity in rural India.
Thanks to the government’s initiative to provide Wi-Fi hotspots and fibre-to-home (FTH) connections in rural areas has also garnered more than 1.3 million Wi-Fi registered users. More than two million household subscribers are set to benefit from high-speed broadband connections by December this year, officials said.
Data consumption through the BharatNet optical fibre-operated and maintained by the government’s common service centres (CSCs) in nearly 1,00,000 panchayats-surpassed 13,000 terabytes (TB) till June. This is an increase from 6,000 TB in 2020 and 300-400 TB in July 2019, the data showed.
“The data clearly indicates the high appetite for internet data in rural areas, which in future can be pivotal in bridging the digital divide, and if nurtured with regular organic feed of educational and informational content, rural India can be digitally empowered,” Dinesh Tyagi, managing director of CSC e-Governance Services Ltd, which runs close to 400,000 CSCs and manages various services provided by them.
Under the first phase of BharatNet, Tyagi said 1,15,000 panchayats were to be connected, of which CSCs have successfully connected 98,000 panchayats with BharatNet fibre within one year of taking over as the operations and maintenance agency.
The village-level entrepreneur manning the CSC is responsible for connecting the last-mile fibre in the area to the nearby government, healthcare and educational facilities.
The entrepreneur also extends the internet through Wi-Fi hotspots and FTH connections to the village residents.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic since March last year, more than 450,000 subscribers have been registered, including more than 325,000 users comprising government institutions such as remote police stations, gram panchayat offices, post offices, Anganwadi centres, PDS shops, and primary health centres.
The CSC Wi-Fi Choupal also has more than 1.3 million subscribers who use this to supplement their mobile data connections.