Address needs of rural telecom for equitable growth: PM

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New Delhi, Dec 12 (UNI) Expressing his concern over the continued rural-urban divide, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said vast stretches of our rural population have little or no telecom penetration and the issue needs to be addressed to make the India growth story equitable.

Speaking at the 'India Telecom 2007', Dr Singh said although the growth in the last few years has been truly impressive and our tariffs are among the lowest in the world, vast stretches of our rural population have little or no telecom penetration.

Rural tele-density is still in single digits. ''I had heard of plans for a phone in every village some twenty years ago. We have not yet reached that goal,'' Dr Singh said.

This is why we have emphasised telecom connectivity in our Bharat Nirman programme, he added.

A PwC report points out that the gap between urban and rural teledensity has been widening with urban teledensity currently at more than 55 and rural teledensity at less then eight access lines per 100 rural population.

In urban areas, metros are estimated to have mobile teledensity of 70 compared to rest of urban India at less than 40 per cent mobile teledensity.

About 70 per cent of Indian population living in rural areas is served by only 24 per cent of the total access lines in the country.

Dr Singh dwelt at length on the multiple benefits from increased rural telecom connectivity. At a narrow level, he said, there will be a new burst of growth for the sector as a whole.

On a larger plane, however, there will be multiplier effects for the entire rural economy.

As better telecom connectivity and consequently better IT connectivity - becomes a reality, our rural hinterland will become more integrated with the rapid growth processes now taking place in the rest of the economy, he said.

The Prime Minsiter added that there will be increased economic opportunities for our rural people - through better education, through improved market access for their products, through improved employment prospects, and through greater purchasing power in their hands.

''The spin off benefits will be felt, not just in telecom, but right across the economy as a whole. Telecom connectivity has the potential to play a transformational role in our rural areas,'' Dr Singh said.

UNI

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