Maharashtra to enable all gram panchayats with 100 mbps connectivity within three years

The state government has planned to connect all gram panchayats hrough an optical fibre network.

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In a major push for digitisation and digital empowerment of villages in Maharashtra, the state government is rolling out an ambitious plan to connect all gram panchayats through an optical fibre network. It will monetise this high-speed Internet service architecture by allowing private players to hire it on payment, creating jobs in rural and semi-urban areas through setting up of rural BPO units, warehouses, small movie halls and supply chain management systems.

The connectivity will also allow villagers to access government to citizen (G2C) services, e-health, e-education and e-agriculture facilities and allow youth to upgrade their skills using the broadband highway.

Vijay Kumar Gautam, principal secretary of the state Information Technology (IT) department, said they have submitted a detailed project report (DPR) to connect all 27,920 gram panchayats in Maharashtra with a fiber with a capacity of 100 mbps per gram panchayat, within the next three years. The network will also connect schools, hospitals and veterinary centres, ensuring a major thrust for electronic access to these services.

"We are taking the fibre to all gram panchayats, with a back-hall of 100 mbps. After that, we will create WiFi hotspots in each gram panchayat. Then private players will be allowed to monetise and take it anywhere else they want to take it. If a cable operator wants to create a small theatre, he will be able to take it there and pay (for it)," explained Gautam.

"It will bring a kind of e-economy drive there," he added, stating that the network could be used for creation of last-mile delivery agents for e-commerce portals, rural BPOs, warehouses and supply chain management systems by private players. This will allow heavy capex sectors to come to villages.

"If fibre and 100 mbps connectivity is taken to villages, it will completely transform them," he stated. The around Rs 9,000 crore project will be covered under the Bharat Net initiative of the Digital India program, which aims at connecting all gram panchayats in the country through a high-speed digital highway using optical fibre, making it one of the largest rural broadband connectivity projects.

On May 1, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis launched the digital village scheme in five gram panchayats in his home district of Nagpur – Tarodi Budruk, Dabha, Vihirgaon, Khasala and Khandala – under the Digital Maharashtra project. These gram panchayats were enabled with 4mbps connectivity with assured WiFi hotspots and use of this facility for e-education, e-health, e-agriculture and G2C services.

By year-end, all 776 gram panchayats in Nagpur district will be connected via fibre, making it the first digital district of Maharashtra. "We are now activating 28,000 CSCs in all gram panchayats. By end of September, you will see 28,000 CSCs, one in each gram panchayat, which will use this bandwidth to provide G2C services," he added, stating that this would provide digital assistance at people's doorsteps.


Maharashtra has 27,920 gram panchayats

In three years, the government plans to connect all of them with OFC cable, with a capacity for 100 mbps speed

The around Rs9,000 crore project will be covered under the Bharat Net initiative of the Digital India program

Apart from rolling out G2C and electronic access to health and education, the government plans to monetise this network by allowing private players, such as last-mile delivery agents, rural BPOs amd warehouses, to use it for a fee.

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