India’s Communications Ministry has big plans to connect hundreds of millions of villagers to the Internet. But for now, it is struggling to conquer email.
In a cramped government office, a secretary tells a visitor that it will take 15 minutes for an email she sent to arrive in his inbox. The local broadband connection is poor, he explains.
When the message does arrive, he prints it and carries it to his boss,Aruna Sundararajan, head of Bharat Broadband Network Ltd., the state enterprise spearheading India’s Web-expansion push. Ms. Sundararajan prefers to have some of her work email delivered by hand.
This is where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a “Digital India” meets reality.In early July, the leader of the world’s largest democracy outlined ambitious plans to get rural Indians onto the information superhighway—in large part by ramping up a long-delayed effort to connect hundreds of thousands of villages to the national Internet backbone using fiber-optic cable. The original 2013 target date for completion has been shunted back to 2019.
“India may have missed the industrial revolution, but will not miss the IT revolution,” Mr. Modi said, pledging to hook up 600 million rural Indians for online access to government services, education, e-commerce, banking and health care.