How One Indian State Hopes To Bring The Internet To 23 Million More Residents

An online connection could be the key to a better life.

Once a week, Ravinder Kerthavath travels from his village in south-central India in search of the Internet. At a cybercafe about 7 miles from his home, Kerthavath searches job boards, including notifications of upcoming exams to enter the police service. For Kerthavath, an Internet connection is the key to creating a better life for himself and his family. 

"I could easily get updates and alerts related to jobs and news as well as have a bright future, which would allow me to take good care of my mother and sister," he told Wired.

Worldwide, about 4 billion people do not have access to the Internet, and about one-quarter of those people live in India. After negotiations with Mark Zuckerberg's Internet.org, which is working to connect the entire world, to bring the web to the entire country failed, officials in the Telangana state decided they would build their own network.

At the time, chief minister of the state K. Chandrasheker Rao had announced his intention to bring running water to every home in the area, a promise that would require the laying of thousands of miles of pipes. It was Rao's son who suggested that fiber-optic broadband cables should be set down at the same time, since thousands of miles of trenches would already be dug across the province.

For people in rural villages, an Internet connection means more than having access to the latest viral cat video. A recent study found that when the number of Internet users in an area increases by one percent, the earnings of employed individuals in that town increase by $8-15.

"Once you have this in place, I believe there will be a paradigm shift in living standards," Rao told Wired"There will be a paradigm shift in the way you could communicate both on the account of health and education, because these two are really what burden the rural households."

The project has not been without its difficulties. The estimated cost for the project is $800 million, which the state hopes to cover through funds from private companies or leasing the network to telecoms. Last year, over 2,000 miles of the water pipe trenches were dug and closed without the fiber-optic cables

But Rao and his team remain optimistic. According to Wired, it is hoped that the project will be finished by the end of the year and will bring internet access to 23 million more people. They envision a Telangana state where farmers are able to research the price of crops without having to employ a middleman. Where a citizen is able to communicate with his or her government no matter where he or she lives in the country. Where Ravinder Kerthavath is able to search job postings from his own home.

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Cover image via asharkyu/  Shutterstock.com

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