For Wharton Business School graduate Sachin Pilot, 33, there is much more to telecom than voice and text messages or even 3G and data transfer. As minister of state for IT and communications, he hopes to exploit technology to help social inclusion. Excerpts from an interview:
What are the priorities of your government?
We want to provide broadband to all villages by 2012. Currently, broadband penetration in India is only 0.8%. We want to provide the best quality of broadband in rural India at affordable prices.
Why is your focus so much on broadband?
The biggest revolution that is taking place in telecom is the convergence of telecom and ICT (information, communication and technology).
Telecom is no longer limited to voice and SMS. We are now moving towards social inclusion, value added services and e-governance. For this we have to create state-of-the-art infrastructure. The focus of UPA2 government is on e-governance. In next two-three years there will be a paradigm shift in the way people look at things. Technology is a great leveller.
Why is India lagging behind in the manufacture of equipment?
We are now focussing on equipment manufacturing. By 2016, the requirement of IT hardware in India will be to the tune of $400 billion. This is higher than the oil import bill. Hence, telecom and IT equipment manufacturing is very important.
We will also encourage R&D activities. I can say that manufacturing is going to be the next big thing in India.
What is the impact of distribution of spectrum to new players during the first UPA regime?
For consumers, this is a good situation. The prices of services have gone down. Call prices have fallen as low as 30 paise per minute. However, the operators should now provide good quality services.