Prasad For Encore Of White Revolution In IT
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Asserting that the Digital India initiative is focused more on the poor than the elite, Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday (11 February) said the 'White Revolution' should be replicated in the information technology arena as well to help transform the lives of the rural folks.
"Can we involve the rural people in the same manner as the milk revolution came to happen through the cooperative movement? There's a lot of scope for that," Prasad told the annual Nasscom summit here.
The late Verghese Kurien-led White Revolution focused on increasing milk production which had a strong positive impact on the farmers, giving them an alternative source of livelihood.
Following the milk revolution or the Operation Flood of the 1970s, many Gujarat villages, especially those around Anand in the state have become examples of how farmers' cooperatives can positively impact their lives.
"My understanding of digital equality is when in a Mahadalit village, the lowest of Scheduled Castes, a Mahadailt sister of mine, digitally literate, is operating a common service centre and providing services. That's the vision we must have and that's what we're working for," he said.
The Minister said the government's flagship 'Digital India' initiative is directed "more at the poor rather than at the elite" who can afford technology and also spelt out the work being done by the government.
"We are in the process of finalising a plan under which BPOs or call centres will be opened at mofussil towns," Prasad said, adding that the government will incentivise private parties to open centres at smaller towns.
He said various ministries carrying out programmes like the Indira Awas Yojana and rural jobs scheme MGNREGA have evinced interest to be the customers of such call centres and hire the services of such centres.
Prasad also asked the IT industry to help in the Digital India initiative by allocating some funds under the mandatory social sector funding, saying "the initiative is an obligation for us and a gift we would leave for the posterity."
"Digital India will succeed only when we walk together," he told the audience comprising the top leadership of the IT industry.
Prasad said the government has embarked on an ambitious programme of laying 7 lakh km of optic fibre cables over the next three years, which will help over 2.5 lakh village panchayats get high speed connectivity.
This, he said, will also help in developing transparency as people get more empowered with technology.
The Minister said given these plans, there are lots of opportunities for smartphone manufacturers to set shop in the country.
He said it is the government's desire to bring down electronics imports, which stood at $100 billion for FY14 and is feared to grow to $400 billion by 2020.
Inward shipments of electronics items constitute the biggest import bill after crude oil that stood at over $150 billion last fiscal.
The government is creating electronic clusters for the same and giving incentives of up to 25 per cent of investment, he said, adding that even after sanctioning 15 such clusters across states, there are more such proposals coming up.
The government has also received investment proposals of Rs 21,000 crore from multinationals to open manufacturing centres at these clusters, of which Rs 6,000 crore have already been cleared.
Prasad said his recent trips to Germany and Korea were instrumental in drawing these investments.