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55,669 villages yet to get mobile telephonic services: Ravi Shankar Prasad

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New Delhi: Mobile telephonic services still hasn’t reached 55,669 villages in India, as the government informed the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

At September-end, the teledensity at rural and urban levels stood at 48.79 percent and 152.36 percent, respectively, said Ravi Shankar Prasad, the minister for communications and information technology.

“541,939 villages out of total 597,608 villages in the country are already covered with mobile services, leaving only 55,669 villages ie. 9.31 percent without coverage,” said Prasad during Question Hour.

Prasad informed that the reason for this shortage, despite the government’s endeavor to ensure telecom connectivity, is because the teledensity level is determined by the consumer’s purchasing ability.

“The increase in rural teledensity has gathered momentum in recent times but the wide gap between rural and urban teledensity can be explained by the difference in purchasing power of rural and urban consumers,” he said.

As per the National Telecom Policy objectives, rural teledensity will be increased to 70 percent and 100 percent by 2017 and 2020 respectively.

Several steps are being taken in this regard and “2,199 mobile towers are being set up in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected states with a total estimated cost of Rs 3,567.58 crores,” said the Communications Minister.

As of November 30, 2015, 1,134 mobile towers were in working order.(image: theguardian)

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IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Says that India Will Not Accept Data Imperialism

IT Ministry officials, however, had said that the WhatsApp information was general and patchy

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Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad emphasised that any data protection law must be technology agnostic, must be based upon element of free consent, no abuse of consent beyond the permissible limits, requisite data protection authorities and a fair mechanism for data processing. Wikimedia Commons

Indicating the Centre’s unhappiness over the latest reports of security breach in WhatsApp that also compromised Indian users, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said India takes the issue of privacy, especially informational privacy, seriously and data imperialism would not be tolerated.

Addressing the Commonwealth Law Ministers’ conference in Colombo, Prasad articulated India’s approach and stand with regard to data protection, according to an official statement.

“We are living in the age of Information Technology (IT) and data is going to play a very crucial role in the digital economy discourse. In India we view privacy seriously and informational privacy is also integral to that. It means a person must have control over his data and its commercial usage”.

He elaborated on the entire evolution of data law in India, the recommendations of the Justice Shri Krishna Committee, the public consultations and said that the government is looking at tabling Bill on the matter in Parliament.

Prasad emphasised that any data protection law must be technology agnostic, must be based upon element of free consent, no abuse of consent beyond the permissible limits, requisite data protection authorities and a fair mechanism for data processing.

There is a need to balance innovation and enterprise in data but with due regard to privacy, the Minister said, adding that data economy both in terms of commercial use and employment will play a crucial role.

According to the statement, Prasad noted that while a large amount of data is being generated in developing and underdeveloped countries, but the claim for processing it is being emphasized only by the developed world.

The Minister cautioned against any attempts at data monopoly. He said that any attempt to create monopoly on data by few companies and few countries, or data imperialism, will not be acceptable.

Prasad also articulated India’s initiatives of Digital India, Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and digital inclusion.

Ravi Shankar Prasad
Indicating the Centre’s unhappiness over the latest reports of security breach in WhatsApp that also compromised Indian users, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said India takes the issue of privacy, especially informational privacy, seriously and data imperialism would not be tolerated. Wikimedia Commons

The Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland appreciated India’s stand and endorsed the country’s approach for equity in data management.

After messaging company WhatsApp recently disclosed that an Israeli spyware had targeted Indian users as well, an irate Indian government asked the company to explain the breach and why the Indian government had not been informed.

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WhatsApp sources countered this by saying the Indian government had been alerted twice, in May and September.

IT Ministry officials, however, had said that the WhatsApp information was general and patchy. (IANS)