Digital Bharat Nidhi

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Source- This post on the Digital Bharat Nidhi has been created based on the article “What is Digital Bharat Nidhi, govt’s fresh attempt at improving rural telecom connectivity?” published in “The Hindu” on 6 July 2024.

Why in the news?

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) released draft rules for the Digital Bharat Nidhi (DBN) on July 4, 2024. The purpose of DBN is to increase telecom connectivity in rural areas. Digital Bharat Nidhi will replace the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

About Digital Bharat Nidhi

1. About: Digital Bharat Nidhi (DBN) is an initiative by Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

2. Aim: DBN aims to:

i) improve internet connectivity, particularly in rural, remote, and economically disadvantaged areas.

ii) foster technology innovation, create regulatory sandboxes, and enhance the global presence of India’s telecom sector.

iii) promote innovation, indigenous technology development, and standardisation.

iv) support startups in the telecom sector and the manufacturing of telecom equipment.

4. It replaces the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) to ensure better allocation of resources.

5. Focus: DBN will focus on research, development, and overall connectivity improvement.  It encourages telecom services for underserved groups, including women and people with disabilities.

6. Funding: Telecom companies’ contributions to the Digital Bharat Nidhi will first be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) and then later deposited into the DBN.

7. Utilisation of funds: The funds will be used to promote access to telecommunication services, support research and development, fund pilot projects, and introduce new telecom technologies in underserved areas.

8. Management and Implementation: An administrator will manage the fund, and projects will be executed by implementers selected through bidding or direct applications, ensuring transparency. The administrator will tailor payment methods (full, partial, co-funding) based on specific connectivity needs.

About Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF):

i) It was established in 2003 to enhance telecom services in less financially viable regions.

ii) It was funded by a 5% levy on telecom operators adjusted gross revenue (AGR). However, only about 72% of the Rs 41,740 crore received between 2017 and 2022 was utilized.

UPSC Syllabus: Indian Economy

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