Access to the internet, whether from a mobile phone or a desktop computer, is access to the world. It’s work, it’s cheaper communication, it’s knowledge acquisition. It’s plain old fun.
Yet, large swathes of some of the richest countries in the world—India among them—do not yet have access to such benefits. In the southern state of Kerala, home to 33 million people, only 54 percent of people have access to the internet. Just a fifth of mobile towers in the state are linked to the fibre optic network, meaning mobile internet; where it exists, it is slow.
But, this is about to change. As reported in Gulf Today, the Keralan government has just given the green light to the K-Fon project—an ambitious $220 million programme that will provide free internet to two million families living under the poverty line.
All public places, including 30,000 government offices and educational institutions, will become Wi-Fi hotspots. All mobile towers in the state will also be linked for better mobile internet services.
“Internet connection is now a basic right of the citizen,” Thomas Isaac, Kerala’s finance minister, was quoted as saying in Gulf Today. “Every household in Kerala will now get an internet connection.”
The package, which would also offer TV channels, will work through licensed internet service providers and cable TV operators. It’s been funded by the investment arm of the state government, with the support of Kerala State Electricity Board Limited and Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited.
Gulf Today adds that the hope is that the K-Fon project would open the possibility for the state to take big strides forwards in IT, making major gains in AI, blockchain and Internet of Things—a boon for everything from airports to IT parks and smaller businesses. Local groups in villages will be able to make use of the network to sell their wares.
This could lead to a revolution in some parts of Kerala, including Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar, in which less than 30 percent of the population has access to the internet.
Isaac promises that the internet project will be completed by Dec 2020.