Governance services offered over digital platforms will become operational across 250,000 gram panchayats (village councils) by March 2016 as the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project is slated to be completed by then.
Prime Minister’s Office has asked the communications ministry to revise the NOFN’s deadline to connect 250,000 gram panchayats to March 2016 from December 2016 at present.
NOFN is supposed to do e-governance what the national highways did to road transport—connect remote villages, improve access to healthcare, education and business opportunities.
The previous government missed its March 2014 deadline to connect 100,000 gram panchayats and was only able to connect 60 gram panchayats by optical fibre till May this year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was recently assured by the secretary, communications ministry, Rakesh Garg that NOFN will become operational by March 2016. NOFN was conceived in 2011 and since then has been falling back on its targets.
Communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s had said upon assuming office that “If Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was known for national highways, Narendra Modi government will be known for broadband highway”.
NOFN will enable citizens to access broadband connectivity over a 100 megabits per seconds network. “It will enable the government to implement Digital India-related programmes. Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL), along with Powergrid, RailTel and BSNL have been asked to expedite the process to meet the deadline,” a top source in the communications ministry said.
BBNL was set up in 2012 to connect 250,000 lakh gram panchayats under NOFN project. However, it still does not have a full-time chairman and managing director.
Aruna Sundarajan, Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) administrator holds additional charge of CMD of BBNL.