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Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan addressed a World Bank conference on Universal Access

Washington, DC
November 10, 1999

Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Communications in Government of India visited USA to attend the infoDev Symposium on 'The Networked Economy: What is at Stake for the Developing World?" held by the World Bank.

Addressing the Conference on Universal Access on November 10, the Minister highlighted the problems faced by developing countries with large populations living in rural and remote areas in accessing basic telephone and information based IT services.

Mr. Paswan said that India was poised for a revolution in the telecom sector and highlighted the Government’s determination to transform the country into an IT superpower. The recently announced New Telecom Policy-1999 recognized the need to provide access to telecom facilities for all at an affordable and reasonable cost An ambitious target of covering all the villages in the country by the year 2002 had been set and is being actively pursued. The telephone is expected to be on demand in urban and rural areas of India by 2002.

Mr. Paswan also lauded the efforts of Centre for Development of Telematics in developing very cost-effective and appropriate switching and transmission technologies for the rural sector to provide not only voice communication but also fax, public call office and data services. He urged the developing world to share India’s experience in these technologies.

The Minister highlighted the Government’s intention to develop rural internet kiosk or "dhabas" to provide a number of services to rural, remote and hilly areas. He appealed to the World Bank to participate in this effort and provide a window of concessional financing.

Mr. Paswan emphasized the importance of an integrated approach, i.e. information technology based transformation of the society cannot take place in isolation unless other components of integrated growth such as education, literacy, roads, etc. also keep pace with the growth of telecom sector. These activities will require substantial funding support from international agencies, the Minister stated, highlighting the problems of Governments in developing countries in meeting the resource demands of the multi-purpose communication centres project. He emphasized the importance of public and private participation as well as of a full committment from international agencies, Governments and NGOs of developing countries to achieve the objectives of Universal Access.