The Federal Government on Wednesday announced that it would end the Government-funded Safelinks scheme for internet users and internet cafes, which it said had contributed to a “distraction” among users and led to their disengagement from the internet.
“The Government has announced that this initiative has not been working as intended,” Minister of Communications and Information Technology Piyush Goyal said.
The Government, in a statement, said it had “made significant progress” in addressing the issue of internet disconnection in rural areas.
It added that it was in discussions with all stakeholders in order to address this issue further.
Safelinks has been credited with helping to cut down on internet disconnections in India by about 50% compared to its peers.
Its aim was to give people a way to keep online for an hour at a time, even when they couldn’t use their mobile phone to send or receive text messages, email or call.
In a separate move, the Prime Minister said that he was removing the “misleading” Safelinking poster of an elephant from government buildings and colleges.
However, the posters are still being used by the government to advertise the Government’s digital infrastructure initiatives.
On Wednesday, Goyal also told Parliament that the “national interest” had been served in this decision.
As the move was made by the Prime Ministers office, it was not immediately clear whether the decision would be formally approved by the Cabinet.
With the announcement, Goyet also announced that the National Digital Action Plan (NDAP) would be implemented.
NDAP aims to boost digital connectivity in rural India by developing a Digital India plan, which aims to improve internet connectivity across the country.
A senior minister in the Prime Minster’s Office said the NDAP would also help to ensure internet connectivity to people in remote areas.
“We are also announcing the NDAPS, a plan for digitising rural internet connectivity in India,” said Anirudh Gupta, the senior minister for digital affairs.
While there are plans to build a fibre-to-the-node network for India, there is also a need to build broadband networks to connect rural and remote areas, Gupta added.
According to data from a recent report by the Centre for Science and Environment, nearly 40% of rural Indians do not have internet access at all.
For more updates on this story, visit the Times of Indian.