Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Discuss the significance of K-Fon project and why such policy need to be adopted at national level?
Conclusion. Way forward.

The Kerala government’s Kerala-Fibre Optic Network (K-Fon) project aim to provide free high speed internet connection to over 20 Lakh Below Poverty Line (BPL) families of the state. Recently, in Faheema Shirin v. State of Kerala, the Kerala High Court declared the right to Internet access as a fundamental right forming a part of the right to privacy and the right to education under Article 21 of the Constitution. In present digital world where almost every service is being digitised, it is important to provide Internet to everyone that will help in growth and prosperity.

Significance of Kerala-Fibre Optic Network (K-Fon) project:

  1. The program will give a push to the digitisation of government services like the e-health programs, IT parks, airports and seaports.
  2. The program will also provide Net connectivity at affordable rate for families which do not fall in the BPL bracket. This will help in reducing digital divide
  3. It will link houses and over 30000 government offices and educational institutions. Mobile towers will also be linked to provide faster mobile internet services. Thus would lead to good governance.
  4. Digital literacy will allow people to access information and services, collaborate, and navigate socio-cultural networks.
  5. It will help in establishing a minimum standard and quality of Internet as well as capacity-building measures which would allow all citizens to be digitally literate.
  6. Through internet access and digital literacy it will also make it easier to demand accountability from the state, as well as encourage the legislature and the executive to take a more proactive role in furthering this right.
  7. Internet access would also further provisions given under Articles 38(2) and 39 of the Constitution reducing inequalities and furthering right of every individual.

Need of K-Fon project at national level:

  1. Social Justice: Digital inequalities lead to gross social injustice and hinder development of the individuals. It prevent Indian citizens and marginalised to enjoy various services and rights provided to them. Thus, internet must be provided to reduce such inequalities.
  2. Access to services: In recent times, several government and private sector services have become digital. Some of them are only available online. This leads to a new kind of inequality, digital inequality, where social and economic backwardness is exacerbated due to information poverty, lack of infrastructure, and lack of digital literacy. Thus, there is need to provide internet to poorest of poor.
  3. Digital economy: We are moving to a global digital economy where knowledge of digital processes will transform the way in which people work, collaborate, consume information, and entertain themselves. This has been acknowledged in the Sustainable Development Goals as well as by the Indian government and has led to the Digital India mission. Thus it is important for an economy to provide equal access to Internet as a right.
  4. Preventing exclusion: Services are now offered online with lesser cost and better efficiency. It also allows citizens to bypass lower-level government bureaucracy. In the absence of Internet access and digital literacy enabling that access, there will be further exclusion of large parts of the population, exacerbating the already existing digital divide.
  5. Good governance: Moving governance and service delivery online without the requisite progress in Internet access and digital literacy do not make economic sense. For instance, Common Service Centres, which operate in rural and remote locations, are physical facilities which help in delivering digital government services and informing communities about government initiatives.
  6. Employment opportunities: Lack of internet access prevent many people from equal employment opportunities vis-à-vis available to one who have Internet access and digital knowledge. Further digital illiteracy lead to lack of required skills, as digital skills are must nowadays to get any job.
  7. Women empowerment: Digital literacy and internet access help in furthering women rights and help them to be aware of their rights. It help in educating women. Also it provide employment opportunities to them, as many women work from home through internet.

Unequal access to the Internet creates and reproduces socio-economic exclusions. It is important to recognise the right to Internet access and digital literacy to alleviate this situation, and allow citizens increased access to information, services, and the creation of better livelihood opportunities.