India (Republic of)

H.E. Mr Rakesh GARG
Vice Minister
Ministry of Communications & Information Technology

21 October 2014


His Excellency Mr. Yanghee CHOI, Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning of the Republic of Korea, all the Hon'ble Ministers, Dr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General, Mr. Houlin Zhao, Deputy Secretary General, ITU, Deputy Ministers, Vice-Ministers, Ambassadors, Members of ITU,  and Ladies & Gentlemen, 
Let me at the very outset congratulate H.E. Wonki Min, Assistant Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning of Republic of  Korea for his election as the Chairman of the ITU PP 14. We have full faith that under your leadership the Conference will achieve many milestones. It is my proud privilege  to express our view on behalf of the Government of India and our H.E. Minister Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad for the development of ICTs, which can play a vital role in connecting people, and communities for the economic development of society, particularly in developing countries. 
India, which is progressing at a rapid pace, has about 950 million phones, and we will reach about 1200 million phones in the next 3-4 years.  This has been achieved with a phenomenal compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 50% in mobile telephony since 2000. It was believed that people with low per capita income can't afford mobile phones. However, through an innovative service model, Indian operators are offering lowest tariff in the World, making the mobile affordable even to those who have very low income. But, even now there is lot of scope for growth because although at present, our urban telephone density is about 146% but the rural tele-density is only 44%.  .

Coming to internet services, India has over 300 Million users but the broadband penetration is around 5%. One of the main reasons for low Broadband penetration is also high cost of Broadband connection. Now India is poised to repeat the same growth story in Broadband by bringing down the cost. 
I wish to inform that the new government led by the H.E. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi launched an ambitious 'Digital India' programme, aimed at empowering more than one billion people with the power of technology and broadband highways. An ambitious project of laying the optical fiber to connect all the villages with the support of Government funding of about $4 billion has been initiated. We plan to make available broadband services to all the villages of India, which are about 600,000 in number, in a phased manner in the coming years.   The object is to ensure digital platform for all applications such as e-health, e-commerce, e-education, e- governance etc through Broadband highways. This 'Digital India' Programme will unleash the hidden strength of India by providing people centric innovative applications and services bringing in inclusive development. The 'Digital India' Programme, therefore, has all four goals envisaged by ITU viz. growth, inclusiveness, sustainability, innovation & partnership. 
In order to strengthen the hands of ITU India contributes significantly both financially and morally.  India is also always eager to play a role in bridging the digital divide by contributing its bit. It has been a partner for providing connectivity and facilitating digital enabled services in many developing as well as less developed counties.  
Based on our experience in India and many other countries we feel that apart from affordability, there are multiple challenges such as availability of relevant applications, ICT skill sets and language barriers to deliver the fruits of ICTs to all sections of society cutting across the nations either developed or developing. Lot of innovation is taking place all around the world and already there is a significant amount of knowledge in the digital world to benefit people in the developing countries. 
We observe that language is a chief barrier for the masses to reap benefits from these developments and knowledge. There is an immediate need to cause breakthroughs in language translation technologies to carry the benefits of ICTs to masses to enable them to use the huge knowledge available in the digital world as well as various services, which can be availed with connectivity like e-health, e-education, e-governance, e-commerce and financial inclusion applications. This is essential to bridge the 'Access to Opportunity Divide'. I underscore that effective delivery of each service is a delivery of opportunity to cause difference and build capacity. 

To meet the challenge of ICT skill sets in using broadband services, the said e-services should be adopted to the mobile platform in local languages and also through voice controlled and image based applications. Simplicity and usability are paramount in making services relevant to the common man. 

End devices, play an important role in ICT eco system. We are in an era of more and more sophistication in smart phones with plethora of applications. We have a huge opportunity and market for cost effective smart mobiles and end devices to deliver e-services to the common man.

Another area where we need to focus is to develop emergency telecom system and networks, which are  disaster resistant, as has been mentioned by Japan yesterday.     

The ITU, which has been playing a yeomen role in standardization in telecommunications/ICTs, with its repertoire of information and expertise can propel development by addressing challenges in  technologies, policies, regulatory aspects, applications and language barriers to help in reducing the cost and make the services relevant for the common man.

With concern, like any other scientific discovery and technology, I note that anti-social and criminal elements are also using these tools to destabilize our society, committing crimes and spreading hatred  amongst individuals, group of people and even nations as well.  It is scary to know that it is not impossible to knock down the critical information infrastructure of the country and bring down the financial infrastructure, health management, governance, power generation systems etc., to a grinding halt, freezing a country's life and economy. It is equally scary to imagine a futuristic situation where your home is hacked and digitally locked. It is the bounden duty of all of us to make efforts for ensuring that ICT applications are not used by antisocial elements for fulfillment of their nefarious designs.  
ITU can play a vital role in development of technologies and standards that can help in transmitting the information on telecom network in a secured manner, protecting the privacy of individuals and establishing an information exchange system which ensures traceability. 

We appreciate the facilitating role played by ITU in building capacity and supporting the member states in harmonizing the policy and regulatory aspects to build effective international cooperation in addressing the challenges of cyber crimes. 
In this era of building an information society for mankind, the ITU has a significant and catalytic role to play for growth and development of people and ideas in bridging the divide of all kinds. India will be a more than a willing partner in working with ITU and brotherly member States to realize the vision of a secured information society as envisaged in World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). It is in this spirit of cooperation, India offers its candidature for election to ITU council for next cycle and Mr. RJS Kushvaha is standing for Radio Regulation Board. Mr. RJS Khusvaha has made immense contribution in the development of telecom sector in the country. His vast knowledge in the field of Spectrum Management will benefit the RRB a lot.  I request for whole hearted support of all the members present here for these two positions for India.     

In the end, I would like to specifically mention the sterling contribution made by Dr. Hamadoun Toure outgoing Secretary General of ITU. His presence will be missed by all of us. I would also like to thank Korea (Republic of) for the excellent platform provided where care has been taken of even minor details of logistic and structure of the conference. I also thank them for wonderful cultural function and reception. The role of His Excellency Mr. Yanghee CHOI, Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning of the Republic of Korea needs to be applauded by all of us.

I thank you all for the patient hearing.