Just an inch away from the digital statetext_fields
'Internet for all' is a democratic slogan in a digital-centric social order. It is revolutionary that the Kerala government is also playing the role of a service provider in this sector, which is heavily dominated by private service providers. This is the first time a state has become an internet service provider in the country. Establishing a robust fibre network in Kerala will go a long way in making the digital infrastructure efficient and stable. If the claim of high-speed and quality Internet access without rural-urban divide can be realised, history will mark it as a decisive step towards digital equality. Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan has described the bold vision of digital equality as a means to free the people from corporate exploitation. Therefore, the realisation of K-FON (Kerala Fiber Optic Network), which the state government describes as a dream project, is a proud continuation of Kerala's declaration of the Internet as a citizen's right.
We assume that next year Kerala will be declared as the first digital state. In the first phase, 14,000 homes will be provided with K-FON's services. But the government estimates that 75 lakh families and educational and commercial institutions in the state will be able to get better internet service through the project. At present, only one and a half lakh connections can be provided. However, Dr Santhosh Babu, managing director of KSITL - the managing agency of K-FON, said that the existing system has the capacity to scale up to 40 lakhs in the future, and that if we get the full support of the government, we can make it a company with a revenue of Rs 500 crores in a year. If we can provide low cost, extensive network with quality, and speed of service, that the private players are unable to do, it will lead to a huge boom in education and employment. With the promise of free internet to 20 lakh BPL families, Kerala will undoubtedly be transformed into a gigabit economy.
Universal internet service will lead Kerala towards high-quality e-governance. Although Kerala can claim to be the first complete e-Governance state and argue that more than 800 services are available online, still the waiting and delay to access government services are unbearable. It's no joke that moving files is slower than a snail's pace, but the everyday experience of the common man. In this context where technologies and internet connectivity are improving and modernising, government services need to be able to increase speed, and make them transparent and corruption free. Even the complex procedures related to the government can be easily achieved through digitisation in Kerala, with a high density of disapora community, the culture of speedy execution at home and office can be easily achieved. But as important as the will to start is the hard grind to perfection.
All the same, it should not be forgotten that any popular and empowering project can be subverted and made anti-popular by insincere and nepotistic practices. In 1990, when we set up the country's first Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram Kerala had shown admirable our foresight which raised high hopes. But it was the city of Bengaluru that got the mandate to become the tech jobs paradise in the country. The teething problems of Thiruvananthapuram, on the other hand, still continues. If the imagination and determination at the start get drained during implementation, as it happens in many systems which are launched as revolutionary, the K-FON may end up as a farce and become a burden on the backs of the people. The government needs to be able to ensure that the cables of corruption and mismanagement are not spread so as to cut off the connectivity of the dream of the government and the people of the state. The government should address the opposition's criticism of approving more than 50% of the tender amount against the conditions and ensure that no room is allowed for corruption. Everyone hopes that the state government will be vigilant to prevent corruption and nepotism from happening.