Digital India Initiatives

[op-ed snap] Kerala’s plan for providing free Internet access to the poor is worthy of emulation by others


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Internet as a right


Kerala could have near-universal Internet access in a year’s time. 

The project

    • Last week, the state cabinet for the Kerala Fibre Optic Network project cleared the path for a Kerala-wide optical fiber network by December 2020.
    • It recognised that Internet access is a basic human right. No other Indian State has recognised Internet access in this manner till now. 
    • This is also in sync with the UN.
    • It aims to touch every household in Kerala by delivering free Internet access to over two million BPL families. It aims to charge affordable rates for other families. 
    • It is to be set up by the Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd. and the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd., 
    • It will connect 30,000 government offices and educational institutions. 
    • When complete, a State that already tops in human development indicators in the country, will be ready for a steep digital evolution.


    • Rights – The role of the Internet in enabling freedom of speech and reducing inequality is huge.
    • Progress – India has made huge leaps in providing Internet access to its people in recent years.
    • A good part of the growth till now can be attributed to cheap data plans, triggered by the advent of Reliance Jio. According to a recent study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and Nielsen, the country has 451 million active Internet users.

Gaps remain

    • Huge in number – Internet have-nots still exist in the millions.
    • Urban > Rural- Internet penetration is significantly higher in urban areas than it is in rural areas.
    • Gender gap – It is also significantly higher for men than it is for women. 
    • Regional gaps – The best-performing State, Delhi-NCR, has an Internet penetration of 69%. The second-best is Kerala, with just 54%. 
    • Tech companies – Global technology companies have in recent years eyed the huge population of Internet have-nots as an opportunity. Some, like Facebook, came up with an idea of free access to a list of chosen sites. 


There is no doubt that governments need to play an interventionist role in plugging this gap. Kerala could set a healthy example.

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