PM says mobile technology to be used for COVID-19 vaccination drive
With the chances of a COVID-19 vaccine being available soon increasing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the mobile technology will be used for mass inoculation against the pandemic.
He also called for the timely roll-out of 5G or 5th generation mobile networks that can deliver multi-Gbps peak data speeds.
Speaking at the India Mobile Congress, Modi has mobile technology has helped provide benefits worth billions of dollars to millions. The same is responsible for billions of cashless transactions and contactless interface on toll booths.
"It is also with the help of mobile technology that we will embark on one of the world's largest covid-19 vaccination drive," he said.
He however did not provide details. Modi government had, soon after sweeping to power in 2014, launched Jan Dhan or no-frills bank accounts for poor, scaled up biometric identity programme Aadhaar and seeded them with mobile phones. This helped the government transfer subsidies and other benefits directly into the accounts of the identified beneficiaries with no pilferage or leakages.
This successful trinity may be replicated to reach the vaccine to the people most deserving.
Three leading coronavirus vaccine developers — Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca Plc and Bharat Biotech — have applied for emergency use authorisation in India.
While Pfizer India has applied to drug regulator for permission to import its experimental mRNA vaccine for sale and distribution without the requirement for local clinical trials, Serum Institute of India Ltd, AstraZeneca's India vaccine partner, has applied for emergency use authorisation using data from Phase-III trials that were conducted locally, as well as in Brazil and the UK.
Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has sought nod Covaxin which is being indigenously developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The applications mean that a mass vaccine effort could be shortly underway in a nation that has the world's second-largest coronavirus caseload.
At the IMC, Modi said the future holds great potential with rapid technological progress.
"We need to work together to ensure a timely roll-out of 5G to leapfrog into the future and empower millions of Indians," he said.
He also pitched for making India a global hub for telecom equipment, design, development and manufacturing.
Stating that India is emerging as one of the most preferred destinations for mobile manufacturing, the Prime Minister said the government has come up with a production-linked incentive scheme to promote telecom equipment manufacturing in the country.
"Let us work together to make India a global hub for telecom equipment, design, development and manufacturing," he said.
The government, he said, is embarking on a plan to ensure all villages have high-speed fibre-optic connectivity in three years.
"We are coming out with programmes that focus exclusively on places which can make the best out of such connectivity aspirational districts, left-wing extremism affected districts, north-eastern states, Lakshadweep Islands etc," he said. "We are keen to ensure greater spread of fixed-line broadband connectivity and public wi-fi hotspots."
Modi suggested that industry form a task-force for better handling of electronic waste as technological upgradation has brought in a culture of replacing handsets and gadgets frequently.
"Even as we experience the rapid speed at which connectivity is improving, we also know that the acceleration has just begun," he said.
In a nation of 1.3 billion, a billion-plus are phone users and the same number also has a unique digital identity. Also, there are over 750 million internet users.
"The scale and speed of internet penetration can be seen by the following facts: Half of the total internet users in India were added in the last 4 years. Half of the total internet users are in our rural areas," he said.
Stating that India's digital size and digital appetite are unprecedented, Modi said the country has the world's lowest telecom tariffs and is one of the fastest-growing mobile app market globally. "The digital potential of our nation is unparalleled, perhaps even in the history of mankind."
"Today we are in an era where mobile apps which are a few years old are surpassing the value of companies which are present for decades. This is a good sign for India and our young innovators too. Our youth are working on many products which have the potential to go global," he said.