The second point indicated in the Charter of Demands of Netizens placed before the candidates seeking election from Bangalore and Karnataka is
2. Recognize and the fact that Netizens have their own Infrastructural needs and develop a “Netizen Welfare Policy” for the State which incorporates projects that move towards providing “High Bandwidth Internet Connection” at an affordable cost just like water and electricity.
Here is the reason why?….
At present the internet population of India is expected to be around 12% of its population. With most of the smart phone owners able to access Internet through their mobiles the access to Internet is spreading fast.
However with the Government moving over to mandatory delivery of service through Internet and the financial institutions such as Banks having already introduced e-banking as the preferred means of Banking, availability or otherwise of Internet access determines the “Digital Divide” in the country. It is as if persons who have access to Internet are more privileged and those who donot have access are less privileged.
In the future people who lack access to Internet are like “Digital Dalits” and need support from the community to be able to access various services that are available on the “Internet only” condition.
It is therefore considered that “Internet for all” is part of the policies that many Governments in the world are pursuing. Some countries consider that it is the duty of the Government to provide free internet access to all its citizens and are providing nation wide WiFi connections for this purpose with some bench mark level of bandwidth.
It is reported that Finland was the first nation to mandate universal broadband along with a minimum speed way back in 2009. All Finns were to have access to a 1-megabit per second broadband (Mbps) connection within 2 kilometers of their homes. It is planned that the speed of connection would further be increased from 1Mbps to 100Mbps by the end of 2015.
In July 2012, United Nations’ Human Rights Council unanimously resolved that Internet Access is a “Human Right”. Several countries have already adopted the concept of “Internet as a Human Right” and are taking measures to provide access to all Citizens. The two issues connected with this are the bandwidth and price.
In India efforts are on to provide broadband connectivity across the country. Progress may be slower than required and perhaps the access is still not affordable to many.
Bangalore being the “Silicon City” it is imperative that it should take the first step towards “Internet for All” and also ensure a decent bandwidth and also an affordable pricing. If possible pricing of basic connection should be free.
The Government of Karnataka can therefore initiate steps in this direction. Initially we can work at “Free Internet” at all public places such as Railway stations, Bus Stands, Schools, Government buildings etc. Gradually the WiFi network should be extended across the entire State.
Availability of Internet access is a basic infrastructure like Roads, water and sewerage lines and will have many benefits that will follow. We often say that a new Road or Railway connection to a village will transform the economy of the village. Similarly a new wave of economic growth for the entire State of Karnataka can ride on the availability of Internet freely.
It is in this context that we consider that “Internet For All” at affordable costs as the second of our demands in the Charter of demands by Netizens.