Telecom continues to breathe fresh air into today’s rarified atmosphere so starved of good economic signals. After adding more than 100 million customers in 2008, the sector is fairly bullish about another good show this year. An additional rate of close to 10 million customers per month is likely to sustain through 2009, a sizeable part of which will come from rural India.
But more than the increased penetration of mobile phones in rural areas, it’s the innovative use of this connectivity revolution that is going to be of interest to all of us.
Harnessing the power of telecom to trigger rural productivity will continue to receive our priority at Airtel. After the phenomenal success of our joint venture initiative with IFFCO (Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited) to empower farmers with information on commodity rates, weather forecast and farming techniques, we would seek to widen the reach of the service to new regions.
e-governance will be another area of immense importance for us. The coming year could see a big pan-Indian transformation in governance shaping up in the countryside.
I am truly excited about the immense possibilities that mobile money transfer opens up for rural customers. We are eagerly awaiting the final clearance from Reserve Bank of India to facilitate it. Enabling a migrant labourer from Bihar to send home a few hundred rupees at the cost of an SMS in a most secure manner will truly be a unique experience for us at Airtel.
Operators expect the government to complete the 3G spectrum allocation process in 2009. Introduction of this new technology is going to mark a quantum jump in wireless communication in the country. Rural development initiatives like e-governance, e-health and e-education will receive significant impetus once operators roll out the 3G networks, facilitating high-speed wireless broadband.
Empowerment will be the key guiding factor of our rural innovations. As the year progresses, we will not only seek to widen the reach of our present initiatives but introduce new ones. They are going to be crafted around the needs and requirements we receive from the countryside.
(Manoj Kohli is a Joint MD & CEO, Bharti Airtel Ltd)