New Delhi: Nine states and one union territory Friday signed tripartite agreements with the Centre and Bharat Broadband Network to lay optical fibre network for providing broadband services at gram panchayat level.
The states which signed the pacts are: Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Odisha and Punjab. The union territory of Andaman and Nicobar islands also signed the pact.
The government aims to connect all the 2,50,000 gram panchayats in the country through optical fibre cable (OFC) in two years under the NOFN project. It has earmarked Rs 20,000 crore for the project.
Sixteen other states and UTs had last year signed the agreement for the project.
Stating that the move would pave the way for transforming "physical world into a digital world", IT and Communication Minister Kapil Sibal asked Haryana, Meghalaya, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu to join the bandwagon to ensure the metamorphosis.
With the availability of NOFN, a minimum bandwidth of 100 Mbps would be available at each gram panchayat and would lead to proliferation of broadband services.
The connectivity would empower rural masses by giving them access to information, public services including those of education, health and financial inclusion.
Sibal asked the states to initiate steps for digitising documents so that the very purpose of laying the OFC gets fulfilled. "This is a great opportunity for all the states...," he said.
The minister also asked implementing authorities to keep the carriage cost bearable for the rural folks. Devices which would be used to get the services also needed to be low cost, he said.
"Agreement signing is a formal exercise of intent and that intent needs to be translated into reality. These are paradigm shifts which would change the way public services are provided, change the way of subsidy system...It will change everything," he said.
First Published: Friday, April 12, 2013, 18:04