On 3rd June 2019, Ravi Shankar Prasad assumed the role as Cabinet Minister for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology and Law & Justice for the second time. Joining him is Dhotre Sanjay Shamrao, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology, who would be assisting the Union Minister in overseeing and executing critical functions of the telecommunications discipline.
Being a senior cabinet minister with knowledge and experience in the telecom industry, Ravi Shankar Prasad in his previous tenure, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, spearheaded the Digital India program. Minister Prasad was instrumental in several key initiatives that re-defined India’s telecom sector and led to many profitable outcomes.
MoS Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre is an eminent parliamentarian with decades of contribution at the grass root level. He is an engineer, agriculturist, and advocate. His areas of interest include Technology for Change, Water Conservation, Infrastructure & Community Development, Environment and Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture for Marginal Farmers. With such credentials, there is a hope that Minister Dhotre can bring a paradigm shift to rural and last mile connectivity.
Along with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (as The Hindu reports that he would be part of 5G dialogues), the two Ministers are projecting a strong power to push the telecom sector to new frontiers. India now pins hope on the two of them to bring effective deployment of new generation technologies that escalates India to new standards and make the country stand on par with its global counterparts
Six critical priorities that lie ahead of Ravi Shankar Prasad and Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre are:
- Rural Broadband and Bharat Net Phase 1 & 2: This is PM Narendra Modi’s most ambitious project. As early as January 2019, the PMO when reviewed the deployment status, disappointing results were known. The previous government had been missing targets, and it is widely believed that the actual impact of Bharat Net is far from even getting started. The new Ministry, therefore, has to obviously double their action in ensuring that BSNL and BBNL pull up a fast act in deploying technologies and network in India’s rural belt that begs for basic telecom infrastructure — both voice and data.
- Make in India/Made in India: Since the launch of Make in India/Made in India a positive trend has set in and a notable increase in FDI was certainly felt in the last 5 years. Although in the past years much progress has happened in local manufacturing and producing products that are suitable for smartphones, a large part of it still lies only in assembling the product and not in actual manufacturing. Indigenous product creation that can earn exclusive IPs and patents is what India’s young talent is looking forward to. The Ministry has to work on this area largely to ensure that the local manufacturing gets a boost which in turn creates more employment opportunities.
- 5G: On assuming office on June 3rd, Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced that 5G trials in India will commence within 100 days with spectrum auctions to be held later this year. TRAI had earlier recommended that 5G spectrum would be auctioned at a cost of Rs 492 cr per MHz. But India’s strongest network operators don’t seem confident of investing in 5G and a prominent slowdown in their interest towards the spectrum has been reflected. The Ministers with TRAI’s consultation have to come up with an action plan that ensures India is the league of countries to launch 5G and reap its benefits. An additional challenge in 5G is the current situation with Huawei not participating in the 5G trials owing to the ban imposed on the firm by the US Government. It now calls for top-level industry experts, bureaucrats, and government bodies to conjoin and create a compelling plan to put India in the 5G map.
- Skilling and Talent for Telecom Sector: Globally, new age technologies like AI, VR, ML, IoT are being deployed in various verticals to improve the socio-economic conditions of the country. India is also at the forefront and a sea of Indian digital startups are working on these advanced technologies to make our country a better place to live in. Thus, job creation and skilling talent seem to be the crux of the industry. On one side, job loss is at its peak and on other side lack of talent to fulfill jobs in AI, VR, IoT, 5G, etc. are not aiding in shaping India’s telecom sector. This has become one of the top priorities. NITI Aayog and the National Skill Development Council have to work with the Department of Telecommunications to roll out programs that enhance the talent pool of the country.
- Security & Privacy: Evolution in digital payment solutions are paving the way for intelligent cybersecurity solutions. This is one area, where Indian organizations are working hard to thwart cyber criminals but the efforts are far too less to match the cybercrime rate. The policy related to Cybersecurity needs a rework. Stricter laws and penalizations are needed to keep our country more digitally secure.
- Telecom Startups: Angel tax has been a pinning issue with the startups in India. A renewed startup policy that defines increased benefits, tax discounts and foreign inclusion/investment are on high demand. There is a hope that the new Government will make provisions for more incubators and accelerators.