Respected Minister for Education Bosiram Siram, Parliamentary Secretary for Information Technology C C Singpho, Chief Secretary, distinguished panel of speakers on the dais, delegates from outside the State and participants.
I am pleased to be here amongst you on the occasion of the 4th eNorth East Award Summit 2013, organized by our Information Technology Department in association with North East Development Foundation and consortium of partners.
For your information I would like to tell you that on Wednesday the Cabinet has approved changing the nomenclature of our IT Department. Henceforth, it will be called as Department of Information Technology and Communication.
I strongly feel the summit has been organized at the right time in Arunachal Pradesh due to two major reasons. One, this has come at a time when the national and international voice is loud and clear on how to develop, increase and sustain the growth curve of our economies and strengthen the social capital through rightful and need base deployment of Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools and applications including the internet and mobile platforms. And the second, it has been organized at a time when our state is making serious efforts to build up and strengthen the connectivity and access provisions across the state. And rightfully, the theme of the 4th eNorth East Award Summit 2013 is titled as 'Connectivity and Access for all in North East'. In-fact, the entire North Eastern Region including Sikkim is confronting the challenge to build a robust network and connectivity to bridge development and communication divides. No doubt, this has serious social, developmental and governance implications in medium and long term for very sustainability of our societies.
The theme of connectivity and access is extremely relevant and important for a state like Arunachal Pradesh. This is more due to its geographical uniqueness combined with difficult terrains and hilly landscapes where laying down road, telecommunication networks, railway lines are difficult and always a challenging phenomenon. This is evident at both intra state level and at inter-state and national level. A huge share of our budget - be it individual, family, department or the state budget - is spent on travel and communication purposes.
This is where the role and value of ICTs is significant in providing connectivity and access to citizens, communities and institutions. There are two important aspects here. One, the current emphasis on connectivity through ICT and IT solution mode is well understood in laying down Optical Fibre Cables and other sorts of solutions that our Department of IT is doing to reach out to the remote locations so that the backbone is built up. The State of Arunachal Pradesh and other states of North East are currently implementing various programme components of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) including setting up State Wide Area Networks (SWAN) and State Data Centre (SDC). While the efforts continue on these fronts in the midst of challenges and issues including terrain and Right of Way (RoW), the access factor cannot be overlooked.
It is agreeable that provisioning access for citizens and communities is fundamental to digital inclusion for those out of the information and communication enabled development benefits. Providing access facilities addresses issues in alienation of our own people who suffers in information poverty and thereby in gaining benefits from government entitlements and services. It is here, public provisions like the Community Information Centres (CICs) and now the Common Services Centres (CSCs) are trying to achieve this access goal in our State, in north east and rest of India.
In the midst of our discussion and talk of connectivity and access especially pertaining to this State and rest of North East, the role of the telecom and internet service providers has been extremely important and contributory. We all know the role played by BSNL in the region which is further added and assisted by private players in providing telecom and internet services through land route or wireless or mobile based services.
It is true that we are still facing major challenges in connectivity and access even after best of our efforts and role playing by the operators. There is no denying the fact that economic consideration in terms of Return on investment (ROI) considerations are guiding the operations of the private players which is understood given the low density and terrain issues in state like Arunachal Pradesh.
We have to continue to look at alternative paths and approaches to address huge connectivity and access gaps. We all know that the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) under Department of Telecom provides financial and technical support to operators who want to reach out to serve in rural and remote areas. Perhaps the USOF administration and the private players must find a common ground to reach out to states like Arunachal Pradesh that is strategically located and needs strong connectivity and access support.
Further, as one would argue, and rightfully though, that in a state like Arunachal Pradesh why not explore solutions in wireless connectivity on free spectrum or use the mobile space that is overtaking all other telecommunication platforms today. There are national and global examples, as I have been informed, that wireless solutions can serve and service local communities with local solutions of connectivity and access with low cost and without sustainability challenges.
Perhaps this can be widely considered in our State and rest of North East that provides a wider logic to support wireless solutions due to geographical challenges. I have been informed that countries like Nepal and states like Himachal Pradesh in India are doing excellent works in wireless and we need to consider such options without delay.
I think it is relevant to talk about citizen services delivery while we talk about connectivity and access. As it has been realized and also observed that without adequate and need based services provision for the citizens and which is affordable and accessible, any efforts in connectivity and access become redundant in the long run. This is more the challenge in states like Arunachal Pradesh where the overall ICT and IT environment is still emerging with low digital literacy, poor use of internet, slow pace of backend computerization of department and services and lack of adequate and skilled manpower. And I must tell you that we are all making sustained efforts to address these gaps through spearheading role of the Department of IT.
Here, I feel it is more important that the States of the region works in coordinated manner and learn from each other's learning and sharing of addressing issues in connectivity and access. I just thought of North East Connectivity Grid (NECG) or North East Digital Inclusion Mission to address both issues in connectivity and access with services to reach out to more than 30 million populations in the region.
Let me congratulate here the Department of IT of Arunachal Pradesh and North East Development Foundation and other valuable partners to come together to create and organize this platform, first of its kind in Arunachal Pradesh, as I am told. I am informed that the Award Summit this year also brings in 32 finalists who shall compete for this year's eNorth East Award in as many as 12 categories.
I am glad that during the day long programme a number of qualitative presentations on various sector based programmes in citizen services delivery, education, health, livelihood and other areas will be made who have come from other states of North East and rest of India.
I congratulate all of you who have come long way to Itanagar after travelling long distances but brings along spirit and enthusiasm to share their ideas and innovations in ICT for development with our state level stockholders.
My special thanks to all of you including the expert minds and speakers who have come to make this platform an enriching and memorable one.
I congratulate all the winners of this year’s eNorth East Award.
I hope each one of you will carry a memorable thoughts and moments with you to cherish in days to come.
I wish a happy stay and enriching moments to all of you.
Thank you! Jai Hind!