The government on Saturday announced a mega investment and connectivity programme for the north-eastern states, entailing inflow of nearly Rs 10,000 crore through over 400 programmes expected to be rolled out in the next four years.
IT and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the investments relate to enhancing the telecom infrastructure in the state, apart from setting up BPOs, boosting electronics manufacturing, giving a push to digital payments, start-ups, and cyber security.
"This is the first time that the central government has conducted an in-depth analysis of the strength and weaknesses of the various states in the north-eastern region before finalising a comprehensive investment programme as part of the 'Digital North-East Vision 2022'," Prasad said, adding that "the idea is to bring the states at par with the other regions of the country."
The programmes aim to give a booster to the telecom infrastructure in the region, where some of the states share their border with China. It will entail investments of Rs 7,800 crore for enhancing towers, optic fibre and other connectivity initiatives.
Manufacturing of electronics will be accorded a major thrust, Prasad said, adding that special incentives may be provided to the states that lead the initiatives in this area. As part of this, an electronics manufacturing cluster was inaugurated at Guwahati.
"The idea is to leverage digital technologies to transform the lives of the people of the north-eastern region and ensure inclusive and sustainable growth," Prasad said after the meeting that saw attendance from representatives of all the north-eastern states, including some of the chief ministers.
A total of eight thrust areas have been identified for boosting the telecom and IT investments in the region and these include digital infrastructure and services, electronics manufacturing, setting up of BPOs, start-up push and enhancing cyber security.
"Improving mobile connectivity and providing high-speed internet through fibre, wireless and other alternate technologies will be worked out. Also, we will focus on enhancing the digital delivery of government services and increasing the participation of the local population in such initiatives."
The government is also looking at providing mobile-based services in the official language of the various states for better connect with the locals. Special provision will also be made to empower women in digital programmes, as per the Vision Document.
Setting up of BPOs and IT-enabled services will be accorded special status, Prasad said, adding that the number of BPO seats provided for the region have been increased from 5,000 to over 10,000. "We are hoping to mobilise youth from the north-eastern region in the digital initiatives to provide them employment opportunities right at their door-step."
The government also plans to encourage the setting up of start-ups in the region in line with similar initiatives across major technology hubs such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Gurgaon. Start-up and innovation hubs will be set up to provide a comprehensive eco-system and support to new digital initiatives, Prasad said.