India plans to bring affordable high-speed broadband connection to 150,000 villages this year, finance minister Arun Jaitley said today as he unveiled the annual budget for the country.
Narendra Modi’s government has been aggressively working on getting internet connectivity to rural areas since assuming power in 2014.
Jaitley said the government is increasing its budget to Rs 100 billion ($1.4 billion) for this effort, adding that it has already laid 155,000km long optical fibre cable across the country.
The minister unveiled an initiative called Digi Gaon through which it will offer educational courses.
The announcement comes days after the Indian government said it will be bringing free internet access to 1,000 villages in the next six months.
Technology giants Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have long been working to bring millions, what they also see as potential customers, to the web.
Social Media Giant Facebook too has been hoping to lure India’s untapped population to get online. After India banned Facebook’s Free Basics (formerly known as Internet.org), the American company has been working on Express WiFi, an initiative that is similar to Google’s free Wi-Fi project.
In partnership with state-run RailTel service provider, Google has already launched free Wi-Fi at 100 railway stations in India, and has committed to bringing internet access to 300 more stations in two to three years.
Its global rival Microsoft has been exploring white space, the unused frequencies that could be used to beam internet data to people.
Aside China, India presently is the second largest internet market with over 400 million people online.