Indian state to have a dedicated Internet ministry

US President Obama is known for his grand broadband plans. Someone east isn’t far behind. Indian state Bihar has announced that it will create an Internet ministry to get Bihar on the digital map. This portfolio is the first in India and could well be the first in the world. The job description of this ministry isn’t out yet but it will deal with a single point agenda : “Connect Bihar”.

I have previously blogged about India being ranked poorly in digital inclusion. There are two pieces to the digital inclusion puzzles. Getting the connectivity and getting the people to ride on the connectivity through services. And both the pieces are intertwined in a catch-22 situation. Having the infrastructure is a bigger problem and cannot be solved by private companies. This is where governments have to step on the gas. Instead of waiting for the central government Bihar has taken matters into its own hands. This is what every Indian state should do.

Indian Air Force personnel prepare to fold the national flag after a rehearsal for the Beating the Retreat ceremony, part of the Republic Day celebrations, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011. Pic: AP.

Digital inclusion is more a result of political will than anything else. I have argued that population is the biggest reason India isn’t as digitally included as the top countries. Well that is true for the most part but it should not be a hindrance. What Bihar has done is out-of-the-box thinking. Initiatives like these will propel India into the knowledge based economy.

Google and Facebook were born out of the dorm rooms of America’s top universities. How exactly did they happen? Well yes Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg are brilliant minds. Just as Malcolm Gladwell says, extraordinary people get extraordinary opportunities. What are the extraordinary opportunities these folks got? Incessant Internet. Google started with the audacious goal of downloading the Internet. Someone in India would not have had that kind of goal back in 1999. The situation is now only slightly better in 2011. India still defines 256 kbps speed as broadband.

If we increase India’s digital inclusion even by 10 percentage points, I am sure Zuckerbergs will spring up in small towns of Bihar and Gujarat. Chamanpura village in Bihar has no electricity but has a world class WiFi enabled school. Teachers teach the students via Skype. It start with a simple objective of providing world class objectives. If a class-1 kid already knows what Skype is, wouldn’t he be thinking something big?

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