Kerala: K-FON Provides Free Internet to Economically Backward Families, Another ‘Real Kerala Story’
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan officially inaugurated the launch of K-FON.
Eight tribal families in the Panthalakudu Colony in Kaniyambetta village panchayat in Wayanad district have a high-speed internet connection at their homes. Around 2,000 families have the free connection, while 17,000 government offices are now connected to the facility. The Kerala Fiber Optic Network (K-FON), a government-owned infrastructure, has ensured this.
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government is the first and only state in India to announce access to the Internet as a Fundamental Right (FR), following the mandates from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the Supreme Court of India upholding it as a fundamental right as per Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
The LDF government has promised to eradicate the digital divide by providing accessible internet facilities to 20 lakh economically backward families. The lives of beneficiaries, including students from the remotest part of the state, have changed after the connections were provided in December 2022.
TRIBAL COLONY OVERJOYED
The life of Adarsh, a class 11 student from Panthaladykunnu, a tribal colony with eight houses in Kaniyambetta panchayat in Wayanad district, changed after the colony received a K-FON connection in December 2022.
"I watched classes online for my Class 11 exams using the free internet connection provided to us. Now we are using it for different needs,” Adarsh told the Chief Minister during the official launch of the K-FON on June 5.
It was a dream come true for a tribal colony with just eight houses in the 15th ward of the panchayat. Until then, the residents did not have access to a basic internet connection through the mobile network.
The tribal households in Panthaladykunnu tribal colony in Kaniyambetta panchayat now have free K-FON connections.
Speaking to NewsClick, Latheef Memadan, the councillor of the ward, said, "The smartphones and internet got introduced to the tribal people during that COVID-19 lockdown. Many organisations and governments ensured they possessed the facility to continue their education. But recharging every month was a tough task for them. This free connection will ensure they stay connected to the world.”
The panchayat has a 30% tribal population who live in remote areas away from modern facilities. The LDF government's dream project has put them in contact with the world wide web.
In the first phase, 2105 houses and 17,412 government offices, including educational institutions, have received the connection to take forward the aim of total e-governance in Kerala.
ENSURING CONNECTIVITY IN REMOTE AREAS
The digital divide came to the fore when educational institutions were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, the LDF government in Kerala announced the decision to launch the K-FON much earlier in 2017.
The aim was to connect households and government offices through the K-FON network to ensure hassle-free internet service. Besides providing free connection to 20 lakh economically backward families, the internet will be provided at a nominal cost to others.
The official launch was held on June 5, when Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan dedicated the service. The commercial service was also launched with nine six-month plans at speeds varying from 10Mbps to 10 Gbps.
Inaugurating the launch of the K-FON, CM Pinarayi Vijayan said that the LDF government in the state has set an example by pursuing a people-centric alternate model. "Finally, we have achieved this as well,” he quipped in his opening remark, taking a jibe at the opposition parties, which accused the government of daydreaming.
WILL ERADICATE DIGITAL DIVIDE
The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) infrastructure was used for setting up the network, besides 30,000 km of fibre optic cable being laid by the K-FON. The Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL) and Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) have played a crucial role in the project.
“A Network Operating Centre (NOC) at Info Park, Kochi and 375 Points of Presence (POPs). These facilities will ensure a high-speed, interruption-free connection to the people. The publicly owned service will be an alternative to corporate supremacy. By ensuring free internet to the poor and connection at an affordable cost to others, we aim to end the digital divide,” Pinarayi Vijayan said.
While India remains the global capital of the internet shutdown, Kerala has set a high benchmark by implementing its goal of access to the internet as an FR.
"In our country, growth is enjoyed by a very few select people. But, LDF wants inclusive growth, which benefits people across every section,” Pinarayi Vijayan said.
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