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National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP), 2018 (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper III; Economics)

The DoT had released the draft NDCP on 1st May 2018 for public comments.  The key objectives of the Policy include broadband for all, creating 4 million additional jobs in the Digital Communications sector, enhancing the contribution of the Digital Communications sector to 8% of India’s GDP from around 6% in 2017, propelling India to the Top 50 Nations in the ICT Development Index of ITU from 134 in 2017, enhancing India’s contribution to Global Value Chains, and ensuring Digital Sovereignty of the country.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has extended the last date for submission of comments on the recently published draft National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP), 2018. 

What is the policy?

12 key highlights from India’s new National Digital Communications Policy

1.

1. Change of name

Previously known as the National Telecom Policy 2012, the NDCP marks a clear shift in priorities from just telecommunications to digital infrastructure, services and security.

2.‘Broadband for All’

The new policy aims to make sure that every citizen has access to broadband running at least 50Mbps, while all key development institutes should be receiving at least 100Mpbs of speed by 2022. The NDCP also seeks to ensure connectivity in all areas that are currently uncovered through channelising the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

3.‘Fibre First Initiative’

There are two parts to this. The first aspect involves the implementation collaborative models to improve infrastructure sharing between public, local and private entities to increase access to fibre optic cables in municipalities, rural areas and national highways. The second fold involves leveraging the existing infrastructure to boost connectivity, affordability and sustainability.

4.National Digital Grid

A central authority, called the National Fibre Authority, will be put in place to handle utility between new initiatives being launched under the NDCP. The authority would coordinate access, standardisation of costs and timelines with respect to the National Digital Grid between the centre, states and local bodies. More importantly, such a mechanism will hopefully help remove barriers to obtaining approvals.

5. Create 4 million additional jobs in the Digital arena by 2022

Although the NDCP has stated the creation of additional jobs as a primary strategic goal that needs to be achieved by 2022, no specific measures or plan outline has been presented in the draft. That being said, they do vaguely point towards ‘capacity building’ as a subset of propelling India forward.

6. Attract $100 billion foreign investment for the telecom sector by 2022

Speaking of pushing India ahead, foreign investment has been highlighted as a major aspect of the policy. The NDCP aims to catalyse investment for the digital sector through various avenues like ensuring a holistic and harmonised approach for harnessing emerging tech, as well as providing an impetus to research and development, start-ups and local manufacturing.

7.Re-train and re-skill 1 million people with ‘new-age skills’

The people who are already a part of the workforce will be further empowered with the strengthening of PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings). The existing training infrastructure that’s already available with the telecom PSUs can be used for further skill development.

8.Expand the Internet of Things (IoT) network to encompass 5 billion connected devices

The NDCP envisions to achieve this by simplifying the licensing and regulatory frameworks to ensure that appropriate security frameworks are put in place for using IoT, which is one of the leading concerns as of now. Another venture to promote IoT includes earmarking unlicensed spectrum space for IoT services, which will future-proof the use of IoT devices looking ahead.

9.Review of licence fees and spectrum usage charges

The DoT recognized that the spectrum is a ‘key natural resource for public benefit’. The policy draft states that it will look into the optimal pricing of the spectrum so that the process is sustainable while also providing affordable access. There’s also a clause that states that spectrum allocation requires the development of a fair, flexible, simple and transparent method system.

10.The encouragement of Next Generation Access Technologies

The policy outlines a basic plan to boost the participation of licensed service providers in using next generation access technologies in order to move towards cost optimisation, service agility and new revenue streams.

11. Creating Broadband Readiness Index for States/UTs

A standard measurement mechanism will help attract investments and address challenges from the rest of the world. This initiative will be supported through fiscal stimuli like depreciation and tax incentives.

12.Secure India

The aim of the policy is to establish a strong, flexible and robust data protection regime so that each citizen and enterprise can operate with autonomy and be given the freedom of choice. More importantly, the NDCP wants to put forth a Telecom Testing and Security Certification (TTSC) to enforce security standards that are at par will global standards with consideration for local requirements.

(Adapted from PIB and https://www.businessinsider.in)

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