Asia needs sustainable rural connectivity: Forum

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Kochi, Apr 16 (UNI) Connecting Rural Communities Asia Forum today called for effective and cutting-edge strategies on finding solutions for sustainable rural connectivity in Asia.

The Forum, organised by Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) and hosted by the Government of India, was jointly inaugurated by Afghanistan Minister of Communication and Information Technology Amrzai Sangin, Sri Lankan Minister of Posts and Telecommunication Mahinda Wijesekara, Brunei Deputy Minister of Communications Dato Yusoff Hamid and Ajay Bhattacharya, Administrator USO Fund, Government of India.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Sangin said his country has made great strides in the telecom sector after starting from scratch in 2002.

''More than 70 per cent of the population are covered by telecom network with the introduction of the Telecom Act in 2005,'' he said.

The sector has provided employment to 60,000 people, he said, adding five operators, four in the private sector and one government owned, were providing service across the country.

In order to strengthen rural connectivity, the Afghan government is planning for a 'National Optical Fibre Ring' around the country to have more connectivity within and outside the country, Mr Sangin said.

Besides, the government has also constituted a 'Telecom Development Fund,' to which the operator has to contribute 2.5 per cent of the total revenue to build infrastructure for telecom rural connectivity, he added.

Reiterating that the government was giving importance to private public partnerhsip (PPP), Mr Sangin said there were lot of private companies, including companies from India, investing in the telecom sector.

Through the Village Communication Network, around 2,000 villages in the country will be connected in the immediate future, he said.

Delivering his speech, Mr Bhattacharya said the Centre was taking steps to increase the rural connectivity and bring more people under the ambit of telecom connectivity.

According to recent official reports, the digital opportunity index in developing countries, including in India, was below 0.33 per cent compared to 0.65 per cent in developed countries.

Sri Lankan minister Mr Wijesekara said his government was taking the PPP model route to develop telecommunication infrastructure in the country.

''Though there were socio-economic problems, which need political solutions, the government was proactive in chalking out policies to enhance rural connectivity and always invited investments in the sector,'' he noted.

Speaking on the occasion, Former CTO Chairman B K Syngal said India was poised for an explosive grwoth in the telecom sector with the total subscribers touching 500 million by 2010.

He said about seven to eight million new subscribers were added every month and India was the second largest telecom sector, after China, in the world.

The rural connectivity could be increased by network extension and cost-effective solutions should be backed by strong implementation skills of the policymakers, he added.

The event, which will conclude on April 18, aims to outline the latest elements of rural ICT developments, while creating networking opportunities for the industry.

More than 100 delegates from different countries were participating in this second global event.


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