Robust broadband connectivity and indigenously-built inclusive, open platforms are key milestones for the country in coming years, TRAI Chairman R S Sharma said on Wednesday urging India to also seize the domestic manufacturing opportunity by playing on strength of its market and investor-friendly policies.
Sharma exuded confidence that “right environment and incentives” can propel domestic manufacturing in India, and while China (a production hub) had built an ecosystem over the last 20 years, the “ecosystem can easily shift now very quickly to India”.
“…given the right environment and the right incentives, domestic manufacturing in India can take off, and in 20 years China has built that ecosystem, that ecosystem can easily shift now very quickly to India…because you know the international situation… how people are looking at China as a country, as we have a huge advantage,” Sharma said speaking at a virtual session organised by Broadband India Forum (BIF), an industry think-tank.
The government and the industry will have to work hand-in-hand towards these common objectives, he said. “…So connectivity…and requiring connectivity, connectivity which is driven by domestic manufacturing is what I would put as my dream number one for India 2025.
That should happen,” he said. Drawing attention to instances of “weaponisation” of users in some of the existing “closed platforms”, Sharma stressed on the urgency to develop new and open alternatives, backed by an industry coalition.
Protocols need to be devised which are specific to a domain, say, e-commerce, e-agriculture and others, he said. Stating that closed platforms have their “ills”, Sharma added that India must build platforms and protocols which are based on inclusive, open systems using blockchain and new breeds of technology.
“Sometimes they start misusing…weaponising their users. You remember in the differential pricing in 2016, the ‘Free Basics’ debate, they weaponised their users and I got millions of letters and mails from the users, prompted by Facebook to send that we love Free Basics…so these are some of the ills which are now coming out of these closed platforms, and we need to develop a completely new one, alternative,” he said.
Platforms like Aadhaar and UPI need to be replicated in other sectors, and doing so would usher in unique platforms, he said. Sharma further that India presents a strong investment proposition and business case for global players, as is evidenced in the recent spate of fund flow in the communications sector, even in the face of ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“If there was no business case …imagine in these COVID times also how many international players have tied up with Indian companies. So, we forget that just because there are some entities that may not have money to invest, therefore, there will no investment…That perception is not correct,” he said.
There are many entities willing to invest long-term in the country’s future, backed by their belief that India will be extremely powerful, not only in the military aspect, but powerful in a context where the technology drives various facets, he said.
Sharma’s policy prescription includes measures to enable broadband through cable TV, the proliferation of wifi networks, open sky policy, all driving towards improved connectivity, a key target for 2025 and an essential ingredient in achieving Digital India objectives.
“I see India by 2025 as a country where every person will have access to Broadband. Currently, we have 667 million or thereabouts… we should have an entire 1.3 billion population with access to high-quality broadband,” Sharma said. Live Mint