Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Area office & Innovation Centre in India at a programme in Vigyan Bhawan. The Prime Minister also unveiled the Bharat 6G Vision Document and launched the 6G R&D Test Bed. He also launched the ‘Call before u Dig’ App. ITU is the United Nations’ specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). India signed a Host Country Agreement in March 2022 with ITU for the establishment of Area Office. It will serve India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Afghanistan and Iran, enhancing coordination among nations and fostering mutually beneficial economic cooperation in the region.
Ms Doreen-Bogdan Martin, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union thanked the Prime Minister for helping develop the new ITU Office and innovation center in India which marks a new chapter in the long history of India and ITU. She expressed confidence that ITU’s presence in the region will help the introduction of advanced technologies, improve capacity development, and foster entrepreneurship and partnerships while also responding to leads on the ground from digital services, skills, cyber security and digital inclusion. “India is a role model for countries looking for digital transformation to grow their economies, rethink their government services, attract investments, remake commerce and empower their people”, she said. She further added that India is home to one of the biggest startup ecosystems, digital payments market and tech workforces in the world and the leadership of the Prime Minister has put India as a leader on the digital forefront of tech innovations and adoptions with game-changing initiatives like Aadhar, UPI among others that have turned India into a knowledge-based economy.
Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister said that today is a special day that marks the new year of the Hindu calendar and conveyed his greetings on the occasion of Vikram Samvat 2080. Observing the diversity of India and the presence of various calendars that are prevalent for centuries, the Prime Minister gave examples of the Malayalam Calendar and Tamil Calendar and said that the Vikram Samvat calendar has been ongoing since 2080 years. He noted that the Gregorian calendar reads 2023 at present but Vikram Samvat began 57 years prior to that. He expressed delight that a new beginning is taking place in the telecom sector of India on this auspicious day where the area office and innovation center of ITU is being inaugurated. He also noted that the 6G Test Bed and the vision document related to this technology have been unveiled which will not only usher new energy in digital India but also provide solutions and innovations for the Global South. The Prime Minister underlined that it will create new opportunities for India’s innovators, industries and startups. He also noted that this initiative will strengthen cooperation and collaboration in the IT sector of South Asian countries.
The Prime Minister said as India is fulfilling its responsibilities as G20 Presidency, reducing regional divide is one of its key priorities. The Prime Minister referred to the recent Global South Summit and underlined the importance of technology, design and standards as per the needs of the Global South as Global South is trying to rapidly breach the technological divide. “ITU Area Office and Innovation Centre is a huge step in this direction and will also give momentum to India’s efforts to provide universal connectivity in the Global South”, he said.
The Prime Minister said that it is natural to have expectations from India in the context of bridging the global divide. He said that India’s capabilities, innovation culture, infrastructure, skilled and innovative manpower and its favourable policy environment are the basis of these expectations. “India has two key strengths – trust and scale. We can not take technology to all corners without trust and scale. The entire world is talking about India’s efforts in this direction”, he said.
The Prime Minister remarked that India’s efforts in this direction have become a matter of discussion all around the world. Highlighting the achievements, the Prime Minister informed that India is now the most connected democracy in the world with more than a hundred crore mobile connections and credited this transformation to the availability of cheap smartphones and data. “More than 800 crore digital payments are made every month in India through UPI”, he said. He further added that more than 7 crore e-authentications take place in India every day. He also informed that more than 220 crore vaccine doses were administered through the Co-Win platform in India. In the past few years, the Prime Minister said, India has transferred more than 28 lakh crore rupees to the bank accounts of its citizens via Direct Benefit Transfers. He informed that India has successfully managed to open more bank accounts than the entire population of the USA through the Jan Dhan Yojna which were later authenticated through Unique Digital Identity or Aadhar and helped in connecting more than a hundred crore people through the mobile phone.
“Telecom technology for India is not a mode of power, but a mission to empower”, the Prime Minister remarked. He noted that digital technology is universal in India and accessible to everyone. Underlining that digital inclusion has happened on a large scale in India in the last few years, the Prime Minister mentioned that broadband connectivity had 60 million users in India before 2014 but that number has gone up to more than 800 million today. He further added that the number of internet connections in India is more than 85 crores compared to 25 crores before 2014.
Referring to the rural upsurge of internet use in India, the Prime Minister informed that the number of internet users in the villages has surpassed the urban areas indicating that digital power has reached every nook and corner of the country. He informed that 25 lakh km of optical fiber has been laid in India by the government and private sector in the last 9 years. “2 lakh gram panchayats have been connected by optical fiber and 5 lakh common service centers are giving digital services leading to a situation where the digital economy is expanding two and half times faster than the rest of the economy”, PM Modi said.
The Prime Minister said that Digital India is supporting non-digital sectors, and he illustrated this by the example of PM Gatishakti Masterplan. He said the ‘Call Before You Dig’ app reflects the same thinking. This will reduce the instances of unnecessary digging and damage.
“Today’s India is rapidly moving towards the next step of the digital revolution”, the Prime Minister remarked as he underlined that India is the country with the fastest 5G rollout in the world as 5G services have been rolled out in more than 125 cities in just 120 days and 5G services have reached approximately 350 districts in the country. Throwing light on India’s confidence, the Prime Minister said that India is discussing 6G just after 6 months after the 5G rollout. “The vision document presented today will become a major basis for the 6G rollout in the next few years”, he added.
Noting that successfully developed telecom technology in India is attracting the attention of many countries of the world, the Prime Minister emphasized that India was only a user of telecom technology before 4G, but today, it is moving towards being the biggest exporter of telecom technology in the world. “India is working with many countries to change the work culture of the whole world with the power of 5G”, he said as he underlined that it will go a long way in realizing the opportunities, business models and employment potential associated with 5G. “These 100 new labs will help in developing 5G applications according to India’s unique needs. Be it 5G smart classrooms, farming, intelligent transport systems or healthcare applications, India is working fast in every direction”, the Prime Minister said. Noting that India’s 5G standards are part of the global 5G systems, the Prime Minister said that India will also work closely with ITU for the standardization of future technologies. PM Modi underlined that the new Indian ITU Area office will also help in creating the right environment for 6G. The Prime Minister expressed delight in announcing that the World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly of ITU will be held in October next year in Delhi where representatives from all over the world will visit India.
Concluding the address, the Prime Minister highlighted the pace of India’s development and expressed the belief that this center of ITU will play an important role. “This decade is India’s tech-ade. India’s telecom and digital model is smooth, secure and transparent and all the friendly countries of South Asia can take advantage of this”, the Prime Minister concluded.
Union Minister for Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Minister for External Affairs, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Union Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan and Secretary General, International Telecommunication Union, Ms Doreen-Bogdan Martin were present on the occasion among others.