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Digital India – Initiatives | Optical-fibre connectivity and many more

Indian PM’s announcement of the Digital India projects as part of his Independence Day (74th) speech, has been seen as a reaction to the present situation faced by the country – pandemic, border tensions among others. The PM
1. Launched the National Digital Health Mission
2. Announced a new cyber security policy
3. Promised optical fibre connectivity to all six lakh villages in 1,000 days

Digital IndiaOptical-fibre connectivity

  • The announcement, called as the world’s largest connectivity project, requires to analyze the present status of optical-fibre connectivity in India.

BharatNet 

  • Started in 2011, was originally named National Optical Fibre Network or NOFN. 
  • Financed by the Universal Service Obligation Fund of the Department of Telecommunications, through a 5 percent levy on the revenues of private telecom service providers. 
  • The project’s primary objective is to extend fibre connectivity to every panchayat, thereby providing access to broadband internet services to 69 percent of India’s rural population.
  • Phase I of BharatNet: Commenced in 2014, was completed in 2017. It has over-achieved the 1 lakh target for this phase by covering 1,22,908 panchayats. 
  • Phase II: In the second phase, remaining 1,29,827 gram panchayats are to be covered through 5 km of new fibre per gram panchayats. 
  • This phase incorporates a mix of both underground and aerial fibre as well as radio and satellite connectivity to reach more inaccessible locations such as Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Issues :

  • The project was unable to meet its March 2020 deadline for its second phase of deployment, which was shifted to August 2021. 
  • The state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) did not have any bidders for a maintenance and upkeep tender for the fibre already laid. 
  • This is mainly due to the decision to keep out Chinese equipment and vendors for 4G work and the dire financial situation of the teleco.
  • Shortage of financial resources at the State level and labour resources due to the migrant exodus, has hindered the progress.
  • In providing services by utilising the already-laid fibre, even as rural internet penetration is growing independently through private telecom players. 
  • Furthermore, the quality of BSNL’s existing fibre is subpar and OFC has not reached some of the locations, supposedly to be connected.

National Digital Health Mission

In the 2017 National Health Policy, which proposed a new National Digital Health Authority. 

  • The NDHM is implemented by the National Health Authority (NHA) under the Health Ministry.
  • Overseen by a Mission Steering Group with Ministers from IT, AYUSH, Women’s and Child Development, as well as Niti Aayog Member, NHA CEO, and others. 
  • A committee headed by former UIDAI chairman released the National Digital Health Blueprint in 2019.
  • Released recently, outlining the envisioned digital registries of doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and insurance companies, digital personal health records, and digital clinical decision systems.
  • Patients can create a Health ID allowing them to share their data between hospitals and doctors digitally. 
  • One copy of a patient’s records are stored in their doctor’s files and one is stored in their own individual locker (which can be owned by a company or by the government).

Cybersecurity Policy 2020

  • The genesis of the existing policy – India’s first – released in 2013 lies in the allegations by Edward Snowden that NSA surveillance was also tracking India’s domestic issues.
  • The National Cyber Security Strategy 2020 -As it plays out in a technological battleground, a new cybersecurity policy would replace the present one.These frameworks will have a bearing on incidents similar to the hacking of 121 Indians’ WhatsApps in 2019 by the Isreali cyber firm NSO Group. 

What else is needed? A pending data protection legislation right now under screening of a Joint Select Committee in Parliament and which mandates some amount of data localisation in its present form.

Q) How can Digital India initiative improve governance in India?