In July 2015, the government launched the Digital India programme with a view to transform the entire ecosystem of public services through the use of information technology. The programme is centered on three key areas: digital infrastructure as a core utility to every citizen, governance and services on demand, and digital empowerment of citizens. The backbone of the Digital India initiative is the BharatNet project, which aims to provide high speed broadband connectivity to 250,000 gram panchayats in the country through optic fibre cable (OFC).
However, significant cost revisions and delays in procuring clearances and equipment have severely affected the roll-out of BharatNet. Owing to this slow progress and the consequent delays in the launch of services under Digital India, several states have introduced their own programmes to provide digital infrastructure and services to people. Some states have also proposed their own implementation models for the BharatNet project.
tele.net takes a look at some of the key initiatives taken by three states – Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi – in this regard…
The state government has launched the Telangana Fibre (T-Fibre) Grid project for the roll-out of the BharatNet programme. T-Fibre seeks to provide infrastructure for affordable and high speed broadband connectivity and digital services to 8.36 million households in the state. The project entails the laying of 100,000 km of OFC from the state headquarters to the district, from the district to the block, and from the block to the gram panchayats, forming a ring architecture. Of the total OFC network, 48,000 km will be laid up to the gram panchayat level and 52,000 km within the villages.
Under T-Fibre, the state government will provide broadband connectivity with speeds of up to 20 Mbps to all households. Meanwhile, all institutions will be provided an on-demand bandwidth of up to 100 Mbps on a non-discriminatory basis. Additional fibre will be leased out to telecom operators/internet service providers, multi-service operators, as well as government and private institutions. The government also plans to roll out e-services under the project to increase the uptake of data services and provide an additional source of revenue.
The fibre will be laid along with the water pipes under the state government’s drinking water supply project “Bhagiratha”, thereby resolving right-of-way issues. This is also expected to reduce the trenching costs for laying fibre. For the execution of the T-Fibre project, the state government is planning to form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with the central government under the Companies Act, 2013. The rural water supply and sanitation department, which is spearheading the Bhagiratha project, will also have a stake in the SPV.
According to the government, underground laying of fibre will continue to be the priority under T-Fibre. The additional routes required for the formation of the ring architecture will be covered through aerial fibre as per the guidelines issued by the Department of Telecommunications. This aerial fibre will be converted to underground fibre in the future.
Further, the Telangana government has been considering two different pricing models for the leasing of fibre. The first model is the upfront payment plus maintenance model under which dark fibre will be leased on an indefeasible right-of-use basis. The user will have to make an upfront payment covering the entire term of the fibre lease and annual maintenance charges. The second is the per annum/month pricing model under which the fibre will be leased on a recurring annual or monthly basis.
The state government is implementing the Madhya Pradesh State Wide Area Network (MPSWAN) programme to provide connectivity up to the block level in the state through OFC. MPSWAN seeks to integrate the different departments of the state government. This is expected to help government departments better address customer grievances. The other key objectives of the programme include the creation of a dedicated closed user group network with a minimum speed of 2 Mbps by connecting around 360 points of presence, and providing data, voice and video connectivity to more than 20,000 government offices. Further, SWAN would provide reliable vertical and horizontal connectivity within the state administration and facilitate electronic transactions between all government departments.
Some of the key initiatives being taken under SWAN include a virtual class room project connecting 391 schools and colleges, smart card-based driving licence and registration certificates of the transport department, e-districts, e-procurement and the state government’s online portal MPOnline.
One of the major challenges faced by the government while implementing the project was with regard to the involvement of the private partner. While the programme was initiated on a build, own, operate and transfer basis with a private player, the contract with the latter was soon terminated. Subsequently, the Madhya Pradesh State Electronics Development Corporation took over the project.
The initial hiccups apart, the project has been fairly successful. Currently, 49 departments are working on SWAN and around 360 points of presence are operational. SWAN’s entire core infrastructure has been made compliant with the most recent version of internet protocol IPv6, making it the first such project in the country. The government has also established a comprehensive network management system for monitoring the entire SWAN IT infrastructure and for troubleshooting. A 24×7 MPSWAN helpdesk has also been established for handling complaints, queries, issues, and discrepancies.
Madhya Pradesh has also been proactive in the implementation of the BharatNet project. It was the first state to sign an agreement with Bharat Broadband Network Limited for project implementation. The state government is moreover exploring the option of laying fibre on overhead electric poles for speedy implementation of the project.
The Delhi government has taken various initiatives to deliver e-services to people. Under the e-office initiative, the government has converted all physical files into e-files across 122 state departments. Further, 11 public services have been made online under the e-district initiative and more services are envisaged to be brought under this initiative soon. The inter-departmental verification process has also been made fullyonline. Moreover, the government has launched the online payment facility for depositing tax through authorised banks and has enabled e-filing of tax returns.
The government has introduced the excise supply chain information management system through which real-time sales and stock levels can be monitored. For online tracking of applications and timebound delivery of services, e-service level agreements, covering around 350 public services, have been initiated.
Besides, a common application platform for all police stations, called the crime and criminal tracking network and system, has been launched. In order to increase transparency in equipment procurement, an online platform providing secure bidding through digital signatures has been started. Meanwhile, the Delhi Jal Board has launched an online platform for the payment of water bills.
Going forward, the Delhi government plans to launch a common web-based application platform, “e-health”, for all public health institutions, a picture archiving and communication system and a digital repository for online health records of each citizen. The government also plans to provide public Wi-Fi facility in Delhi, starting with the East Delhi area, through the creation of Wi-Fi hotspots. In addition, CCTV cameras will be installed in government schools, societies, roads and major public places.
Based on presentations by Sujai Karampuri, Director, Electronics and Semiconductor, ITE&C Department, Government of Telangana; L.K. Tiwari, Chief General Manager, Madhya Pradesh State Electronics Development Corporation; and Sandeep Ahlawat, Head, e-Governance, Department of Information Technology, Government of Delhi