In this series, I talk about the current state of digital divide and rural broadband access in India as on 2021.
It’s 2021. We have been vocal about this issue for almost a decade now. Thousands of Indian villages suffer because of lack of broadband and Internet access.
With COVID and the economic lockdown for the lower and middle class, this country is facing one its biggest crisis in the century. There is an urgent need to enable information and Internet access for every single citizen of this country.
- How do we expect children to be a part of online education without Internet access?
- How do we expect people to participate in a digital economy without having access to Internet?
- Does e-governance simply mean making new b.s. apps to give people an illusion that something is being done?
- Why don’t we treat Internet access as a human right in this country?
To elevate poverty and misery from this country – we have to ensure equal opportunity to access information for all. This means, connecting every last village with broadband Internet access. We are one of the youngest countries in the world with tremendous potential to not just uplift ourselves but to also raise the standards for this entire sub-continent. We rise despite our government, not because of it.
From student protests to farmer protests, the government of India has time and again demonstrated its oppressive nature by blocking or censoring the Internet. However, nothing has been done to provide last mile connectivity to rural areas. The apathetic nature of our ruling classes do not consider the plight of the weakest members of our society. At this stage, for those of us who remain conscious, it’s up to us to empower the weakest and the most vulnerable members of our countries with infrastructure and educational access.
At Muft Internet, we have been teaching locals from different remote villages in India how to set up their own community broadband without ANY help from big telco or the government. Both of which focus on quantity and profit instead of inclusivity while designing access solutions for the masses.
Since the lockdown hit last year, our team has been working round the clock to share this knowledge. Mobilizing young Indians to take charge of their own village’s broadband access. There is no point waiting for the government or big telcos to set up infrastructure in these remote and forgotten places.
We are one of the lowest ranking countries for Internet speeds and freedom. We have some of most wide-spread Internet censorship. A mark of a strong democracy and a civilised society is how they treat Internet access for it’s citizens. In India, we simply lack this.
Some of the villages we got broadband Internet to last year didn’t have 2g or any mobile network to communicate. We have been getting 100s of phones calls every week from villagers asking us to help them set up community broadband access for their villages. It’s been impossible for us to reach all of these places at the same time considering our small research and technical team that works pro-bono.
In light of this situation, we are launching our own digital education platform that aims to teach young Indians how to set up and run their rural broadband network. A simple 100 hour free course with a centralised helpline that will possibly transform the state of access in this country in time to come.