WiFi services being provided through BharatNet in villages across India will be free of charge till March 2020, Telecom and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday.
"We have already connected 1.3 lakh gram panchayats through BharatNet optical fibre network... Our target is to take this to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats. To promote utilisation of BharatNet services, we will provide free WiFi in all villages connected through BharatNet till March 2020," the minister said.
Currently, 48,000 villages connected under the BharatNet project have WiFi access.
The minister said all common service centres (CSCs) will offer banking services. As such, CSCs act as access points for delivery of digital services, and the number of these centres has increased from about 60,000 in 2014 to 3.60 lakh currently. Haryana itself has 11,000 CSCs offering an array of 650 services.
CSC e-Governance Services India Ltd is implementing the Digital Village initiative in rural and remote areas of the country. Overall, one lakh villages are set to be transformed into digital villages.
Gurawara village in the Rewari district of Haryana has been developed as a digital village by the CSC. The CSC unit there, operated by village level entrepreneur Sonu Bala, facilitates access to government-to-citizen services through the digital seva portal.
CSC e-Governance Services India Ltd CEO Dinesh Tyagi said, "The Digital Village scheme has the potential to truly transform the village economy and reduce the digital divide."
A DigiGaon or digital village was conceptualised as a connected village where citizens can avail various e-services of the central government, state governments and private players. These villages are projected to be change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods through community participation and collective action.
The scheme focuses on empowering the entire village community by providing access to education, health or financial services through the digital medium.
In a digital village, residents are encouraged to become digitally literate. Residents can avail quality healthcare through tele-medicine consultations under allopathy, homeopathy and ayurvedic systems.
The digital village also promotes a financially inclusive society by providing banking, insurance and pension services at the doorstep of citizens. In addition, the entire village is WiFi enabled, so residents are digitally connected.
Such villages are also equipped with an LED assembly unit, a sanitary napkin unit, a paper bag-making unit and a rural BPO to promote employment among the youth.