The progress of the BharatNet project in Tamil Nadu has been substantially behind other States because of legacy problems that were inherited from the predecessor government relating to tender and transparency of it, said State Minister for IT and Digital Services Palanivel Thiaga Rajan.

“However, BharatNet now is in active progress though not happening as quickly as I would like. Our mission is that by this time, next year we should have fibre-based 100 mbps connectivity to 12,600 panchayats - 100 per cent of panchayats in the State,” he said delivering his keynote address at the CII Connect 2023 organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry on the theme Tech for Tomorrow.

BharatNet, the world’s largest rural broadband project, is to provide broadband connectivity to all the 2.5 lakhs gram panchayats across India.

Equitable speeds

In 2006-07, the Minister said he was able to get 1 mbps internet connectivity through DSL in Chennai. Now, at his office in Madurai, there is 300 mbps connectivity over fibre. That’s the transformation that has happened in the cities, but unfortunately that has not reached the rural areas. It is the role of the government that we make sure there is equitable and at least get decent speeds like 100 mbps, which we can achieve next year, he said.

“It is a very good time for Tamil Nadu because in truth, we have fallen behind quite a bit. We were the pioneers in the late 1990s but if you look forward now, about 25 years later, we have not kept up with Bangalore or the Hyderabad. This is the chance for us to use volatility as our friend because the upside is very high and almost unlimited,” he said.

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There are three or four major areas in which Tamil Nadu can have a different outcome than yesterday. Those are the transformation of government processes and engagement with citizens; increasing social equity and access through high speed connectivity; providing jobs and opportunities for young people and creating an ecosystem for innovation and rapid transformation of the economy. These are not uncommon to other people’s ambitions but in our case, we are very specific, he said.

For instance, transforming the government and engaging with the citizens, Rajan said, “I must first confess that travelling in States like Karnataka, Telangana, Rajasthan and Kerala, in fact Tamil Nadu, has not kept up in the way it administered itself; in the way the government functions and interacts with each other and in the way it connects with citizens,” he said.

“Across Tamil Nadu we are creating 10,000 additional jobs a month in the IT sector alone and it is bound to grow in the coming years. However, instead of 10,000 jobs a month, we should be targeting 25,000 jobs a month with our efforts. That’s the vision in terms of the employment and growth,” he added in his keynote address.

Connect 2023 Awards

The Minister also gave away CII Connect 2023 Awards. The Entrepreneur of the Year award was given to Maran Nagarajan, CEO, Kaar Technologies. The award for Exemplary Application of Technology in the Private Sector was conferred to Prasanna Soundara Pandiyan, CEO of Vinga Software Solutions and in the public sector, it was conferred to L Subramanian, Commissioner of Agriculture, Tamil Nadu government.

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The Woman Entrepreneur Award was given to Sowmya Mahadevan, Co-Founder and COO, Kriyadocs and the Global Influencer of the Year Award to Ravi Saroagi, Co-Founder, Uniphore

The Ecosystem Enabler Award was given to Arumugam Murukiah, MD and CEO, Broadline Technologies and the Lifetime Achievement Award to R Srinivasan, Co-Founder, Redington India.