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India Internet Governance Forum Looks at Universal Internet Access

Image credit: Press Information Bureau

The India Internet Governance Forum (IIGF) curtain-raiser, a precursor to IIGF has concluded. The curtain raiser ended with an insight into a roadmap for digitisation in India. IIGF will be jointly organised by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MietY), and the National Internet Exchange of India. The theme is ‘Empower India through Power of Internet’ and will include discussions on the road to digitisation in India. The salient feature of the event will be the three plenary sessions: India and Internet- India’s Digital Journey and Her Global Role, Equity, Access, and Quality; High-speed Internet for All; and Cyber Norms and Ethics in Internet Governance.

As per a government press release, the IIGF has been constituted in conformance to IGF-Paragraph 72 of the Tunis Agenda of the United Nations-based Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Through an open and inclusive process, IIGF will bring together stakeholders in the global Internet governance ecosystem, including the government, industry, civil society, and academia – as equal participants of the larger Internet governance discourse.

The objective of the curtain raiser event was to discuss the roadmap for digitisation and reaffirm India as an essential participant on the global stage by highlighting its role in international policy development on Internet governance. A government official explained that IIGF comes at an important time in the history of the evolution of the Internet in India. As the world is emerging from a pandemic, it is becoming increasingly visible that there have been disruptions and reinventions of businesses, governance, and governments across the world. The rate of digitalisation has increased and accelerated tremendously, he said.

India has around 800 million internet users at the moment, making it the largest connected nation. The press release stated that the government is committed to covering 1.2 billion people. The country still has about 400 million people outside the network and it’s important for the government to ensure that Internet connectivity is available for all. The intersection of policy framework, the emergence of cutting-edge technologies, and initiatives by private players present an exciting time for the evolution of the digital economy, an industry expert explained. The IIGF will be a step ahead in ensuring the inclusive participation of all stakeholders in harnessing the power of the Internet for economic growth.

Earlier this month, MeitY organised a workshop to create a roadmap to accelerate Internet access in currently unconnected parts of the country. The workshop, Connecting All Indians, invited public and private stakeholders, including India’s largest Internet service providers and officials from MeitY, the Department of Telecommunications, and the Ministry of Communications. As OpenGov Asia had reported, the workshop provided a platform for all the participating stakeholders to put forward their solutions to expand Internet penetration to remote corners of the country.

The event was chaired by the Minister of State for IT who laid out the government’s objectives to connect all Indians with open, safe, and trusted Internet connectivity. He noted that it is the Prime Minister’s vision through the Digital India initiative to empower all citizens with the Internet and simultaneously expand the digital economy and generate jobs.

The workshop also reviewed BharatNet, the world’s largest fibre-based rural broadband connectivity project. The workshop deliberated upon strategies to immediately cover left-out geographies, regions, and villages. BharatNet is a mission of national importance, aiming to establish a highly scalable network infrastructure that provides on-demand and affordable broadband connectivity for all households and on-demand capacity for all institutions, in partnership with state governments and the private sector.

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