Archive for January, 2012

January 13, 2012

The commencement

Two months after our experiment ended, we had the chance on December 28 to discuss our experience and learnings to the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia. As many of you know, the Commission is responsible for setting policy on many social programs that benefit the average and the poor India, among them the poverty line. Given the uproar over the Commission setting the number at Rs. 32/person/day in late September, we were pleasantly surprised to find Dr. Ahluwalia receptive to many of our ideas and suggestions. We formally handed over our blog report to him as well. (We hope to make the report publicly available soon – in the meanwhile, lookout for our upcoming experiment executive summary post.)

Given this very positive response from a Cabinet Minister ranking official, we hope to continue our outreach efforts to the government as well as the private sector on how they can incorporate our findings into policies and corporate social responsibility efforts, respectively.

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January 2, 2012

Mobile Post #2: Case for providing end-user subsidy for data

In the previous blog post, we established that internet connectivity is critical for development and democracy and therefore it should be a priority for the government to ensure that India’s population is connected in the most efficient manner as soon as possible. In this post, we establish that the fastest and the cheapest way of achieving that could to be to use existing 2G and 2.5G infrastructure in the country.

The current government plan to get India connected via internet is to create new infrastructure by laying down fiber optic backhaul to every Gram Panchayat (GP) over the next 3 – 5 years, that is over 250,000 villages in total. The government has been pondering this idea for quite some time now, and the Department of Telecom in conjunction with other ministries has debated various solutions. The Confederation of Indian Industry, in partnership with Analysys Mason, and supported by a variety of telecom operators and vendors presented an extremely detailed proposal to the government on this last year. One of the key findings of the paper was that it is indeed critical for the government to intervene and enable deep broadband connectivity as all countries with successful or rapidly developing broadband penetration have benefited from government investments in infrastructure to kick start the growth, especially when broadband is at less than 10 – 20% penetration. The paper also estimated the cost for providing this fibre access at INR 17,500 cr. While this is a large enough, the USO Fund has enough to cover it.

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